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Previous instalments in my series on Harry and Meghan can be found here, here, here and here.

I left off at the end of 2019, with The Sun publishing a story on the Sussexes imminent extended visit to Canada, which enraged the Duke and Duchess:

On December 21 that year, Sky News reported:

Harry and Meghan’s spokeswoman ended speculation over their whereabouts by confirming the couple and their seven-month-old son Archie are spending their six-week Christmas break in the country Meghan called home for seven years.

“The decision to base themselves in Canada reflects the importance of this Commonwealth country to them both,” she said.

“The Duke of Sussex has been a frequent visitor to Canada over many years, and it was also home to The Duchess for seven years before she became a member of the Royal Family.

“They are enjoying sharing the warmth of the Canadian people and the beauty of the landscape with their young son.”

The duchess lived in Toronto before joining the Royal Family as the popular US drama Suits, in which she starred in, was filmed in the Canadian city.

Harry and Meghan were famously pictured in Toronto in 2017 at the Invictus Games.

The Sussexes are likely to have spent the US Thanksgiving celebrations on 28 November with the duchess’ mother Doria Ragland.

Prince Harry’s grandmother, the Queen, is said to be supportive of the Sussexes’ plan to take a long break and not join the rest of the Royal Family at Sandringham on Christmas Day.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have previously spent Christmas with Kate’s parents in Berkshire instead of with the Queen.

Harry’s grandfather, Prince Philip, 98, was taken to hospital in London on Friday from Sandringham for treatment for a pre-existing condition, Buckingham Palace said.

The Queen had just arrived at the Norfolk estate for her Christmas break after the State Opening of Parliament on Thursday …

By Christmas Eve, the Mail reported that the Royal Family wanted the couple to return home in light of Prince Philip’s stay in hospital:

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been urged by Royal family members to return from abroad to spend Christmas in the UK, as Prince Philip spends a fourth night in hospital …

It comes after a family Christmas card of the royal couple smiling in front of a Christmas tree, with Archie’s adorable face staring down the camera lens, was revealed.

On December 28, news emerged in the UK that:

THE Duke and Duchess of Sussex have registered the trademarks for hundreds of products with their Sussex Royal brand.

That same day, Blind Gossip posted ‘The Big Plan’:

Think back to a few months ago when we talked about the baby.

Our married couple was oddly reluctant to let the public see the baby, citing concerns over safety and a desire to bond privately.

We told you that wasn’t true. Plenty of their family members have managed to keep their children safe and secure over many generations while meeting their obligations as public figures.

We told you that the couple was actually trying to keep sightings of the baby rare while they figured out how to monetize the situation… without the rest of the family finding out.

They bungled that scenario.

However, it’s now full steam ahead with The Big Plan!

What is The Big Plan?

To brand and monetize everything.

You are now seeing that plan being put into motion. And if you question what they are doing, you will be met with anger, misdirection, and insistence that their motives are pure.

We hid the baby because… Privacy! Motherhood!

We take private planes and stay in posh private digs because… Environment! Wellness!

We isolate ourselves from 99% of our family and surround ourselves with celebrities because… Family! Safety!

We are engaging our own outside lawyers and PR team because… Protection! Charity!

How dare you question our motives!

See how that works?

Fortunately, the Queen put paid to Sussex Royal on February 18, 2020, as the Mail reported:

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex must drop their ‘Sussex Royal’ label after deciding to step down as working royals.

Following lengthy and complex talks, the Queen and senior officials are believed to have agreed it is no longer tenable for the couple to keep the word ‘royal’ in their ‘branding’.

Harry and Meghan have spent tens of thousands of pounds on a new Sussex Royal website to complement their hugely popular Instagram feed.

They have also sought to register Sussex Royal as a global trademark for a range of items and activities, including clothing, stationery, books and teaching materials. 

In addition, they have taken steps to set up a new charitable organisation: Sussex Royal, The Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

It has now been made clear that they will need to ‘re-brand’.

Returning to December 2019 and January 2020, Harry was eager to work out some sort of arrangement for his and Meghan’s future with the then-Prince Charles. Charles told his son that such things had to be done in person, not via email. Prior to that, Harry had contacted the Queen, who said she would be happy to meet with him until it turned out her diary was full.

Various excerpts in this post come from investigative-turned-royal reporter Valentine Low and his 2022 best-seller, Courtiers. Royal insider Lady Colin Campbell said on GB News a few weeks ago that Low’s book must be the definitive one he had so much access to the people who run the Palace.

On a personal note, I read all of Valentine Low’s work when he wrote for the London Evening Standard around the Millennium. Low left no stone unturned in his lengthy exposés, and it is good to see that he continues to doggedly investigate his subject matter.

Another book I would recommend is Tom Bower’s 2022 best-seller Revenge, which concerns the Sussexes lives. It, too, is packed with detail. Again on a personal note, I read his biography of the late Robert ‘Bob’ Maxwell in the 1990s. Maxwell died an unresolved mysterious death on his yacht. Maxwell was larger than life, both physically and figuratively. Bower’s biography was a page-turner, from start to finish.

I sent both Courtiers and Revenge as Christmas gifts in 2022. I commend them to my readers.

‘Cornered, misunderstood, deeply unhappy

Valentine Low’s excerpt, which The Times published on September 25, 2022, explains what happened between December 2019 and January 2020 (emphases mine):

The current set-up was not working for them, and they wanted to go and live in North America. Harry seemed to be under the impression that they could just sort it out by email before he and Meghan got back to London on January 6. The reply they got, however, was that this would require a proper family conversation. They were also told that the first date that the family would be available was January 29. It is not clear if this inflexibility was on the part of Charles, who was due to be in Davos, or that this was the response of his long-time private secretary Clive Alderton, pulling the strings. Either way, from the Sussex point of view, this went down incredibly badly. It fed into the narrative that they were not being taken seriously by the palace machinery, or by the rest of the family.

Harry had tried to speed up matters by arranging to see his grandmother alone before he left Canada. However, the message was conveyed to him that the Queen had been confused about her diary, and was no longer available. Harry was incensed, because it was not true: the courtiers had got in the way, it seemed, because they saw the meeting with the Queen as an attempt to pick the Queen off before Harry started talks with the rest of the family. As one source put it, “There was a danger that a private conversation could be interpreted very differently by two people.”

And so it turned out with other conversations concerning the Sussexes, leaving the Queen to state that ‘some recollections may vary’.

Harry considered travelling directly to Sandringham to see his grandmother:

He eventually dropped the idea, but it was a sign of his frustration that he even contemplated such a move.

Royal diaries opened up early in January 2020:

Given that the couple announced their plans to stand down on January 8, and the royal family met to discuss it all five days later on January 13 — the so-called Sandringham summit — it seems that the family diary was rather more flexible than originally appeared.

Harry and Meghan could be maddening, of course; they had already infuriated the royal family by pushing out their Megxit announcement on January 8 with the minimum of notice when all the talks had been about issuing a joint statement. But the palace also showed the sort of initial inflexibility that was always guaranteed to infuriate them. Harry and Meghan felt cornered, misunderstood and deeply unhappy. If the rest of the institution failed to appreciate that, even if their demands were unreasonable, the departure negotiations were never going to end happily. It is uncontroversial to suggest that the Sussexes would regard the talks as a failure. They wanted to find a compromise whereby they could live part of the year abroad but carry out some royal duties at home. No such compromise was found. Instead, they lost their royal duties, their patronages, Harry’s military affiliations, their security, their income from the Prince of Wales and, for official purposes anyway, their HRH titles. They pretty much lost everything, except for the freedom to do exactly what they want.

This is what I meant yesterday by the mess of pottage.

The courtiers were busy:

In the immediate aftermath of the Sussex bombshell on January 8, when the Queen said she wanted all four households to “work together at pace” to find a workable solution, Edward Young, the Queen’s private secretary, was with the Queen at Sandringham. The first negotiations took place in Clarence House — Charles’s home ground — over the following four days, with the private secretaries and communications secretaries from the four households all trying to find a way to make the Sussexes’ dreams a reality. They gathered in Alderton’s office, a sunny first-floor room where paintings from the Royal Collection sit alongside photographs of Alderton’s own family. Young would join the talks on the phone from Norfolk, but for the first few days it was Alderton who was leading the discussions. (Later, they would all have talks at Buckingham Palace.) Simon Case, Prince William’s private secretary, who is now cabinet secretary, also played a pivotal role. “He was talking to both sides,” said a source.

The people sitting around the table went through five different scenarios, which ranged from Harry and Meghan spending most of their time being working members of the royal family, but having a month a year to do their own thing, to them spending most of their time privately, but doing a select number of royal activities. There was, according to more than one source, a positive atmosphere in the room: they wanted to find a solution. At one stage, Alderton made the point that if they could get this right, they would be solving a problem for future generations of the royal family who were not in the direct line of succession.

Ultimately, the Queen decided that the couple could not be both in and out of the Royal Family:

By the end of the week, the five scenarios had been worked through. The view from the palace establishment was that, however much time Harry and Meghan spent away from royal duties, anything they did would reflect on the institution. That meant that the normal rules about royal behaviour would apply. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

But the Sussexes wanted their freedom: freedom to make money, freedom to dip their toes into American politics. There was no way for the two sides to reach an agreement on that point. Crucially, it was the Queen who took the view that unless the couple were prepared to abide by the restrictions that applied to working members of the royal family, they could not be allowed to carry out official duties. One source said: “There was a very clear view: you can’t be in and out. And if you’ve got such clarity of view, it’s very difficult to say, ‘Why don’t we go 10 per cent this way instead of 20 per cent?’ ” Compromise was off the table, removed by the Queen.

Low wonders whether the courtiers could have handled the situation ‘differently’, but it seems the previous paragraph would say that they could not have done so. The Queen took the final decision — and the right one, in the estimation of most Britons.

Mismatched expectations

It would appear that Meghan thought she would be the star of the Royal Family, whereas the Palace, rightly, expected her to slot into her role as the Duchess of Sussex.

Low found empathisers with both sides then adds his view:

One former palace insider believes the way the developing crisis was handled was “incompetent beyond belief”. They said: “I think Meghan thought she was going to be the Beyoncé of the UK. Being part of the royal family would give her that kudos. Whereas what she discovered was that there were so many rules that were so ridiculous that she couldn’t even do the things that she could do as a private individual, which is tough . . . It just required the decision-makers to sit around a table and say, ‘OK, what are we going to do about this? What do you need to feel better? And what can we give?’ ”

There is, however, another view: that nothing could have ever saved the situation. The two sides were just too far apart. Another palace source, who has been critical of the Queen’s private secretary Edward Young in the past, said: “I think that it was an impossible task. I think in Meghan and the household, you had two worlds that had no experience of each other, had no way to relate to each other, had no way to comprehend each other. And Meghan was never going to fit in that model and that model was never going to tolerate the Meghan who Meghan wanted to be. So I think that it was inevitable that they would not be able to work together. I don’t think there’s anything Edward could have done about that that other members of the royal family would have accepted.”

Both things are probably true. There was a collective failure on the part of those who work for the royal family to recognise that there was a serious problem, to flag it up, and to try to do something about it. There were no high-level discussions any time in the first eight months of 2019 — when Meghan was later to say that she had suicidal thoughts and the first clues were emerging that the Sussexes were plotting an escape — about the nature of their unhappiness and what could be done about it.

But even if that had happened, I do not believe that it would have solved the problem. Their grievances were too deep-rooted, and the distance between what the Sussexes wanted and what the royal family felt able to give was just too great. Perhaps the best that could have happened is that the divorce could have been handled without all the acrimony that followed the events of January 2020. One thing is definitely true, however. If there were any failings, they were during the first year or so of Harry and Meghan’s marriage.

There is one final thought on this, and it comes from a surprising source, someone who knows Harry well but remains upset about what Harry and Meghan did. Their view is that perhaps the Sussexes’ departure was not the untrammelled disaster that so many think it was. “There is a part of me that thinks Meghan did Harry the greatest kindness anyone could do to him, which was to take him out of the royal family, because he was just desperately unhappy in the last couple of years in his working life. We knew he was unhappy, but we didn’t really know what the solution would be. She came along and found the solution.”

Dear, oh dear.

The Sussexes ignored staff advice

In an article from January 10, 2020 for The Times, written as the formal separation took place, Low tells us what was going on between the Sussexes and their staff before the couple sent out their statement:

This reveals how Harry has his own sense of the truth:

There was talk of putting out a statement — not the one that was eventually released but a blander version merely confirming that talks were taking place, and giving none of the detail about their plans to become financially independent and to split their time between Britain and North America.

Once more, Harry spoke to the Queen. Versions of how the conversation went differ. According to one narrative she made it clear that he should not go public with his plans. However, a source close to Harry told The Times: “He certainly thinks she said it was fine.”

His closest advisers did not think it was fine. Both Sara Latham, the couple’s communications secretary, and Fiona Mcilwham, their private secretary, argued strongly against putting out a bombshell statement without consulting the other members of the family. Harry and Meghan, however, were determined to press ahead.

The other royal households were given the statement shortly after 6pm on Wednesday. Ten minutes later it was sent out to the world.

It seems that the Duke and Duchess hadn’t listened to their staff on other occasions:

Harry and Meghan’s closest advisers are a devoted team who believe in the values, aims and ambitions espoused by the duke and duchess. But that does not mean that their advice is always listened to: and it also does not mean that some of them are not anxious about their future as the couple carve out their new role.

It also does not mean all of them have been involved in the plans. The Sussexes’ website, sussexroyal.com, was created by Made by Article, a Canadian company, without input from their Buckingham Palace press team. Instead much of the content, criticised for inaccuracies, was created by the couple with Sunshine Sachs, a PR company in New York.

The Sussexes’ most senior advisers are Sara Latham, their communications secretary, and Fiona Mcilwham, their private secretary, both appointed in the past year. Until last year the couple’s household was part of Kensington Palace, home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and they were a closely knit team and funded by the Prince of Wales.

Then came the falling out and the decision for the Sussexes to set up on their own. In theory they are answerable to the Buckingham Palace team, but in reality they operate as a separate fiefdom. Most staff costs are paid for by the Duchy of Cornwall, but communications staff under Ms Latham are paid for by the sovereign grant.

Public unhappy

Low then explores the view of the general public in January 2020, which was quite negative, especially as their money went towards the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, where the Sussexes lived for only a short while:

… the announcement that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex aimed to be financially independent has raised questions about their future income. The duke has personal wealth — the money left to him by his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales — but is supported by money from his father and public cash.

In the narrow streets that surround Windsor Castle, locals grumbled at the cost of a recent renovation to the couple’s residence, Frogmore Cottage, which sits in the castle grounds. Taxpayers paid £2.4 million to renovate the grade II listed building, into which the pair moved nine months ago. Jess Hunter, 28, manager of the Queen Charlotte pub, said: “It seems a bit rich to then turn around and walk away from it all. I like Meghan but she knew what she was getting into when she married Harry. If you don’t want to be a princess, don’t marry a prince.”

About 32 per cent of people thought the decision would “damage” the royal family, while 49 per cent did not. “He’s a normal human being and he’s wanting to carve out a little bit of space for his new family to grow in,” added Michael Smith, 52, a prison officer. “It’s what his mother would have wanted.”

The Sussex Survivors’ Club

The Times featured another excerpt from Low’s book on September 24, 2023.

It gives examples of how unaccustomed courtiers are to incivility — and so should they be. It is hard to imagine what they went through from 2018 to early 2020.

Low takes us back to 2018, when he was part of the press pack on the couple’s South Pacific tour:

It is normally a standard part of a royal tour, the moment when the royals venture to the back of the plane, where the media sit, to say hello and have a chat. But the tour of the South Pacific by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2018 was different …

Harry had looked out of sorts. His relations with the media pack had been prickly and strained. Where Meghan smiled, always putting on her best face whenever she was on show, Harry glowered. On the five-hour flight back from Tonga to Sydney, his press handlers promised that he would come and thank the media for being there. It was only after the plane had landed that the couple finally appeared.

I remember the scene well. Harry looked like a sulky teenager, Meghan stood behind him, smiling benignly. Her only contribution was a comment about how much everyone must be looking forward to Sunday lunch at home. Harry sounded rushed, as if he couldn’t wait to get back into the first-class cabin. “Thanks for coming,” he said, “even though you weren’t invited.”

This was spectacularly rude — and incorrect. The media had been invited to cover the tour. Later, Harry’s staff told him how badly his remarks had gone down. He replied: “Well, you shouldn’t have made me do it.” Harry’s petulant behaviour revealed much about the couple’s deteriorating relationship with their own staff.

So bad did things eventually become that Harry and Meghan’s team would later refer to themselves as the Sussex Survivors’ Club. The core members were Sam Cohen, whom the Queen had personally asked to step in as private secretary and who worked for the couple from after their wedding until the end of their South Africa tour in September 2019; Sara Latham, the former Freuds PR managing partner, hired in 2019 to be in charge of communications; and assistant press secretary Marnie Gaffney. Sources say the team came up with a damning epithet for Meghan: a “narcissistic sociopath”. They also reportedly said on repeated occasions: “We were played.”

Fast forward to the Oprah interview in March 2021, and all close advisers’ support was forgotten:

Meghan takes pains to highlight the difference between the Queen and those who surrounded her. In Meghan’s account, they were the people who refused to help when she was in her hour of greatest need. They were the ones who “perpetuate falsehoods” about her.

Watching Meghan describe how she considered ending her life in the year after her marriage was an uncomfortable experience. And yet a succession of perfectly decent people, all of whom believed in Meghan and wanted to make it work, came to be so disillusioned that they began to suspect that even her most heartfelt pleas for help were part of a deliberate strategy that had one end in sight: her departure from the royal family. They believe she wanted to be able to say ‘Look how they failed to support me’.

Sam Cohen, who had 17 years’ experience of working at the Palace, would frequently say to Edward Young, the Queen’s private secretary, and Clive Alderton, Charles’s private secretary, that if it all went wrong, the Palace needed evidence of the duty of care it had shown to Harry and Meghan. The duty of care was crucial. “[Sam] was a broken record with them on that,” said a source.

But by the time of the Oprah interview, everything the Palace had done to support the couple — including giving them a team that would have done anything to help them succeed — was forgotten.

Instead, Meghan was able to point out all the times the institution had failed her. One of them was when she says she went to the head of HR, where she was given a sympathetic hearing but sent on her way. This was inevitable: HR is there to deal with employee issues, not members of the royal family. Meghan would presumably have known that, so what was she doing there? Laying a trail of evidence, would be the cynical answer.

Another former staff member goes even further. “Everyone knew that the institution would be judged by her happiness,” they say. The mistake they made was thinking that she wanted to be happy. She wanted to be rejected, because she was obsessed with that narrative from day one.”

Courtiers are unaccustomed to untoward behaviour:

Part of the problem, according to one source, was that everyone in the Palace was too genteel and civil: “When someone decides not to be civil, they have no idea what to do. They were run over by her, and then run over by Harry.”

The situation was not helped by Harry and Meghan’s deteriorating relationship with Alderton and Young. “As things started to go wrong,” a source told royal biographer Robert Lacey, “Meghan came to perceive Young as the inflexible, bureaucratic figure who summed up what was with the BP [Buckingham Palace] mentality, and the feeling was mutual. Young really came to dislike Meghan’s style.” Harry was just as dismissive of the two senior courtiers as Meghan. An insider said: “He used to send them horrible emails. So rude.”

Meghan’s secrecy

If Meghan criticised the courtiers, she was not exactly above criticism herself.

She used secrecy to her advantage:

When Harry and Meghan went to Canada for their six-week break in November 2019, their escape plans were already laid, amid the greatest secrecy. Meghan would not even tell their nanny, Lorren, where they were going. According to one source, she did not know where they were going until the plane — a private jet — was in the air.

Shortly before the end of the year, Meghan confided in a member of her staff that the couple were not coming back. The rest of the team did not find out until they held a meeting at Buckingham Palace at the beginning of January 2020. They found it hard to accept they were being dumped just like that. Some of them were in tears. “It was a very loyal team,” said one.

Money, money, money

By the end of March 2020, Meghan was allegedly panicking about money:

On March 31, The Express reported:

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry agreed to pay back the money spent for the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage into the Royal Purse as part of their deal with the Queen. As part of their bid for independence from the Royal Family, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they want to become financially separate from the Queen and will be looking for new sources of income. Meghan last week was confirmed to have struck up a deal with Disney to narrate their latest documentary Elephant but the Duchess donated the money as the project was filmed before she and Harry announced their departure from the Royal Family.

A royal insider claimed Meghan is terrified because of the financial pressure they are now under and suggested the Duchess has ordered Prince Harry to find a job.

Speaking to US tabloid National Enquirer, the anonymous source said:This debt is a blow to their ambitious plan to become freewheeling billionaires in the world.

“Meghan is terrified that her dreams of being a Hollywood queen will be destroyed by this financial nightmare and she is insisting that Harry make a move and resolve the crisis.”

The insider however noted the lack of previous working experience could make the search for a new job difficult for the Duke of Sussex.

That is too funny. On a serious note, we see again the mess of pottage looming large.

Harry’s lack of work experience led him to dish the dirt on the world’s most famous royals. I hope he’s happy.

Ending on the present day — January 2023 — it is rumoured that Harry might be offered a contract to be a television commentator in the US on his father’s May 6 coronation.

On January 25, The Express reported:

Prince Harry has been tipped to skip King Charles III’s coronation after two US broadcasters allegedly approached the Duke of Sussex to commentate on the ceremony. The Duke’s potential coronation role was first tipped in this weekend’s Sunday Express where TV companies were suggested to be attempting to lure him to join their media teams. Harry’s relationship with his father and the Royal Family has been frosty after a series of digs levelled at the institution in recent months. Royal correspondent Charles Rae said the couple may still be invited to attend the ceremony but suggested Prince Harry may instead opt to strike a deal with US TV channels to act as a commentator and stay in the US …

Speaking on behalf of Spin Genie, Rae added: “There are also rumours that Harry has been offered a lot of money by two broadcasters to commentate on the Coronation …

Networks CBS and NBC are believed to have approached the Duke to get him joining their reporting team in the lead-up to the coronation.

The Venn diagram: Diana

The intersection of the Venn diagram linking Harry and Meghan is clearly Princess Diana.

On August 4, 2021, at the time the Duchess turned 40, her half-sister Samantha told GB News’s Dan Wootton how obsessed Meghan was with the princess:

Here’s the full video, just under 20 minutes long. In it, Samantha discusses how difficult it is to love someone who has caused so much hurt, her disappointment that Meghan has not contacted their ailing father and her book about the Duchess:

As for Harry, Prince Charles’s and Princess Diana’s chef at Kensington Palace, Darren McGrady, says that William and Harry had very different personalities (see at the 1:25 mark).

He says that one day Diana entered the kitchen after the boys had just been in — a favourite place for them to go — and said:

You know, the boys are so different. William’s deep, like his father, and Harry is just an airhead like me.

What more can I say? Nothing.

Cottage pie

In closing, Darren McGrady prepares cottage pie the authentic way. The recipe dates from the 1700s.

There is a note early on in the video that says shepherd’s pie is made with lamb and cottage pie is made with beef, something non-Brits do not realise.

It is also called cottage pie because it was for peasants. Peasants lived in cottages.

But I digress.

Cottage pie was a favourite of Wills and Harry. Perhaps one day, in the years to come, they might enjoy it again together.

End of series

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On Wednesday, January 11, 2023, the outspoken Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen had the whip removed for remarks he tweeted about the coronavirus vaccines.

He now sits as an Independent.

Before going into that news, let us look at Bridgen’s past history in Parliament.

Watchdog

Bridgen, who has represented North West Leicestershire since 2010, has always been a watchdog, in and out of Parliament.

Holding his own on Brexit

On April 8, 2019, when Theresa May and Parliament were at loggerheads on how to proceed with Brexit, Bridgen appeared on the BBC’s Politics Live to say that most voters would prefer No Deal. He was the only Leave supporter on a panel of four. Everyone else was a Remainer, including the host, Jo Coburn. They piled in on Bridgen, but the MP was correct. He had cited a poll from YouGov which said that 44% of Britons preferred No Deal. By contrast 42% wanted to remain in the EU.

One month later, he rightly objected to MPs who wanted to have a customs union with the EU instead of a full exit:

The impasse in the House of Commons worsened as the months dragged on. On September 10, Bridgen supported Boris’s prorogation, which ended up being overturned. He talked with talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer just before that prorogation:

In late November, The Sun tweeted an excellent video of Bridgen canvassing North West Leicestershire voters before the general election on December 12 that year. They had strong opinions on Brexit, Labour and Boris. Incidentally, North West Leicestershire is the happiest place to live in the East Midlands:

Pointing out ‘modern slavery’ in Leicester

In January 2020, Bridgen called to the Government’s attention the working conditions at certain women’s garment factories in Leicester. They would be considered sweatshops in the United States.

The city of Leicester is not in Bridgen’s constituency, but he was concerned enough to call the companies out, directing a question to Kelly Tolhurst MP, the then-BEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) in Parliament:

Will the Minister agree to meet me to discuss the situation in Leicester, where I believe that approximately 10,000 people in the clothing industry are being paid £3 to £4 an hour in conditions of modern slavery?

Guido Fawkes reported that nothing was done until July that year, when Leicester showed unusually high rates of coronavirus (emphases in the original):

What happened at the meeting months ago?

The Labour Behind the Label campaign has a report out alleging there is evidence which indicates that conditions in Leicester’s factories, primarily producing for Boohoo, are putting workers at risk of COVID-19 infection. Grim reading…

Leicester’s rates remained high throughout the rest of 2020. By contrast, North West Leicestershire — Bridgen’s constitutency — had the lowest rates in Leicestershire. On October 12, he debated the knotty problem of full lockdowns with talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer, who advocated sequestration of the vulnerable only:

Calling out West Midlands mayoral candidate

In the week before the 2021 local elections in England, he asked IPSA (the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) to investigate Labour MP Liam Byrne’s alleged use of parliamentary expenses to fund his campaign for the mayoralty of the West Midlands. Byrne fired back that Bridgen put his own London accommodation on expenses, which is what every other MP, including Byrne, does. Then Byrne accused Bridgen of having one of the worst voting attendance records in Parliament. Byrne was wrong there, too, as records show that Bridgen voted 88% of the time, whereas Byrne voted only 63% of the time between 2010 and 2019.

Calling out the BBC

On May 21, 2021, Bridgen complained about the BBC in a tweet, saying that Britons are forced to pay for it, while the organisation shows inadequate accountability in the face of broadcasting scandals it hid under the carpet.

Objecting to coronavirus vaccine passports

On July 22, 2021, Bridgen told GB News that showing a vaccine passport upon entry to various places was ‘unworkable’, saying that most people were already vaccinated and that it would take too much extra time to check everyone’s vaccine status:

2022 signalled big trouble ahead

In 2022, Andrew Bridgen became known as an MP with a reputation.

Initially, his letters of no confidence in previous Prime Ministers became clear, all the way from David Cameron’s time through to Liz Truss:

However, later on, his relationship with his family’s potato business would begin to bring matters to a head, affecting his standing as a Conservative MP.

On September 3, The Times reported (purple emphases mine):

A Conservative MP branded “dishonest” by a judge has been ordered to pay £800,000 and evicted from his luxurious country home after a dispute involving his family potato business.

Andrew Bridgen, 57, has spent years suing his family business, AB Produce, which supplies potatoes and other vegetables to catering companies and supermarkets.

In March, a High Court judge ruled that he “lied” under oath, behaved in an “abusive”, “arrogant” and “aggressive” way, and was so dishonest that nothing he said about the dispute could be taken at face value.

The North West Leicestershire MP had accused the firm of forcing him out of a £93,000-a-year second job, which required him to attend a monthly board meeting. The judge found that, rather than being bullied out of the job as he alleged, Bridgen resigned in order to reduce the amount he might owe his first wife, Jackie, in divorce proceedings.

Judge Brian Rawlings also found that Bridgen pressured the police inspector in his parliamentary constituency to launch a costly one-year investigation into vexatious allegations against his estranged younger brother, Paul Bridgen, 55, who runs AB Produce, which is based in Derbyshire.

In a later judgment in June, which came to light only last week, the MP has been forced by the judge to vacate the Old Vicarage, a five-room property reportedly valued at about £1.5 million. He was given a final deadline of August 24 and Bridgen, his wife and their child complied with the deadline. It is not known where they now live …

Bridgen and his second wife, Nevena, 42, a Serbian blogger and former opera singer, had lived in the restored 18th-century home without charge since 2015. During this period, it is understood that he refused to pay rent, or bills for water and electricity, according to court filings.

Bridgen was told to pay in excess of £800,000 in legal costs to three shareholders at his family’s firm, of which one is his brother, Paul, after bringing claims of unfair treatment. He could yet be ordered to pay £244,000 in rent arrears.

It is understood that Bridgen, who earns a basic salary of £84,144 as an MP, has paid the money he already owes, although the source of the funds is unknown and is likely to come under scrutiny

Parliamentary rules stipulate that MPs who are declared bankrupt must step down if a bankruptcy restrictions order is made against them. He is also vulnerable to another referral to the parliamentary commissioner for standards as he failed to declare AB Produce as the entity paying his rent and utility bills.

According to the guide to the rules relating to the MPs’ code of conduct, MPs must declare “taxable expenses, allowances and benefits such as company cars”, as well as “financial support and sponsorship” and “gifts of property”.

On November 3, Guido reported that the Commons Committee on Standards recommended that Bridgen be suspended from Parliament for five sitting days for the aforementioned controversy:

They also describe an email he sent to the Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone as “completely unacceptable behaviour” as he ‘sought assurance’ about a rumour that Stone was shortly to be ennobled provided she arrived “at the ‘right’ outcomes when conducting parliamentary standards investigation[s]”.

The full list of aggravating factors are as follows:

    • Mr Bridgen breached the rules of the House on registration, declaration and paid lobbying on multiple occasions and in multiple ways. (The Committee noted that each of these breaches could have led it to recommend a suspension from the service of the House);
    • Mr Bridgen has demonstrated a very cavalier attitude to the rules on registration and declaration of interests, including repeatedly saying that he did not check his own entry in the register;
    • Mr Bridgen is an established Member of the House, having been elected in 2010;
    • Mr Bridgen’s email to the Commissioner called her integrity into question on the basis of wholly unsubstantiated and false allegations, and attempted improperly to influence the House’s standards processes …

For Andrew’s clarification, no you cannot submit a letter of no confidence in the Standards Committee…

But, by then, Bridgen had already turned his attention to the coronavirus vaccines, saying that, if there is an investigation in the EU Commission, there should be one in the UK, too:

On Tuesday, December 13, Bridgen was granted an adjournment debate in which he criticised the vaccines and cited Dr Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist who saw his own father, a healthy man, die of unusual heart problems after taking one of the vaccines. Bridgen, like Malhotra, wanted the mRNA vaccines stopped and offered evidence as to why. As I wrote on December 22, Maria Caulfield, the Government minister and a practising nurse, did not approve of Bridgen’s speech. Danny Kruger, another Conservative MP, supported Bridgen’s statements, but Caulfield reiterated the Government’s line on vaccines.

On Wednesday, December 28, the British Heart Foundation disparaged Bridgen’s claims in the adjournment debate, which I also wrote about the following day.

2023 can make or break Bridgen

On Monday, January 9, 2023, Bridgen began the day by tweeting the link to a discussion about alleged lies told during the pandemic and the response to coronavirus:

Later that day, The Guardian reported that Bridgen had been suspended for five working days for lobbying and undeclared interests, matters unrelated to coronavirus:

The MP for north-west Leicestershire was found to have repeatedly broken the MPs’ code of conduct by a cross-party committee, which endorsed findings from Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary commissioner for standards.

He was unsuccessful in an attempt to overturn the recommendation in December and a motion was approved by parliament on Monday.

The suspension is due to start on Tuesday 10 January, and will run for five sitting days.

Bridgen was found to have approached ministers and officials on behalf of a forestry company, Mere Plantations, that had given him a donation, a visit to Ghana and the offer of an advisory contract, a role that ended up being unpaid.

Two of the days were recommended by the committee for the breaches of rules on advocacy and interests. The other three days of suspension were advised in response to what the committee said was a “completely unacceptable” attempt by Bridgen to put pressure on Stone.

Bridgen attempted to appeal against the decision, criticising the investigation as “flawed” and arguing that it had not fully considered the motivations of the person who had made the initial complaint.

He argued that he was just helping a local company that worked with Mere, and that it was thus simply a “constituency interest” that brought him no personal benefits. The committee disagreed with this, saying the MP had breached lobbying rules.

The committee, chaired by the Labour MP Chris Bryant, found that Bridgen breached the rules “on multiple occasions and in multiple ways”.

Meanwhile, Bridgen continued to sound the alarm about coronavirus vaccines.

On Tuesday afternoon, January 10, he tweeted a Project Veritas interview with a Pfizer scientist who alleges that they were aware that their vaccine was responsible for the unusual spike in cases of myocarditis. This is short, subtitled and well worth watching:

That afternoon, Bridgen tweeted a video featuring Dr Peter McCullough, who alleges that the vaccines are responsible for myocarditis cases and deaths. This, too, is a short video well worth watching:

On the morning of Wednesday, January 11, Bridgen retweeted a message from Dr Malhotra which included a video of Tucker Carlson and vaccine watchdog Robert F Kennedy Jr discussing the omerta on coronavirus vaccines:

Bridgen followed up with his own tweet about the alleged dangers of the vaccines, including a quote from Robert F Kennedy Jr:

Worse news than a five-day suspension came later that morning, after Bridgen had tweeted a cardiologist’s comment that the global rollout of coronavirus vaccines will have been the worst human rights violation since the Holocaust. Bridgen later deleted the tweet, but other MPs saw it and strongly objected to it. Pictured along with Bridgen is Conservative MP Simon Clarke:

It then came to the attention of the Conservative Chief Whip Simon Hart, who withdrew the whip from the MP:

On Wednesday morning, Guido reported what Simon Hart had said in defending his decision:

Andrew Bridgen has crossed a line, causing great offence in the process. As a nation we should be very proud of what has been achieved through the vaccine programme. The vaccine is the best defence against Covid that we have. Misinformation about the vaccine causes harm and costs lives. I am therefore removing the Whip from Andrew Bridgen with immediate effect, pending a formal investigation.

However, that afternoon, the Daily Sceptic reported that a Jewish academic in Israel came to Bridgen’s defence:

Andrew Bridgen, the British politician suspended as a Conservative MP over allegations of being anti-Semitic in a tweet criticising the Covid vaccines, has been defended by the Jewish Israeli academic whose article he linked to in the tweet in question.

Dr. Josh Guetzkow, a senior lecturer in criminology and sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told the Daily Sceptic that as a Jew living in Israel he was “surprised” by the accusations against Mr. Bridgen, because “there is nothing at all anti-Semitic about his statement”

John Mann, the Government’s independent anti-Semitism adviser, was unequivocal, saying: “There is no possibility that Bridgen can be allowed to stand at the next election. He cannot claim that he didn’t realise the level of offence that his remarks cause.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that he “completely condemn[ed] those types of comments in the strongest possible terms”.

“Obviously it is utterly unacceptable to make linkages and use language like that and I’m determined that the scourge of antisemitism is eradicated,” he told the Commons on Wednesday …

However, Dr. Guetzkow, whose tweeted article details the alarming, recently-released analysis of vaccine adverse event data from the U.S. CDC, said this is a “tempest in a teapot”.

“The hollow accusations against him only distract from genuine examples of anti-Semitism and ultimately hinder attempts to draw attention to them, much like the boy who cried wolf,” he said.

It is clear from the statement by the Chief Whip that Mr. Bridgen’s chief sin is to have criticised the vaccines. Mr. Hart’s statement notably does not mention anti-Semitism, but rather says that Mr. Bridgen is having the whip removed for “misinformation about the vaccine”, which “causes harm and costs lives”, adding only that he had caused “great offence in process”.

The allegations of anti-Semitism therefore appear to be just the opportunity party chiefs needed to mete out the punishment to the vaccine heretic

Stop Press: Dr. Guetzkow has pointed out that Holocaust survivor Vera Sharav has been drawing parallels between the extreme and discriminatory public health measures during the pandemic and the Holocaust throughout the the last three years.

Rishi Sunak’s comment came up during Wednesday’s PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions), the first of 2023, which I watched on BBC Parliament.

One might well ask who asked the question.

None other than Matt Hancock, who has just returned from a short holiday in Turkey, which seemed to involve shopping.

The Daily Sceptic reported:

Matt Hancock, the disgraced lockdown Health Secretary, hit out at Mr. Bridgen’s “disgusting, antisemitic, anti-vax conspiracy theories” at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. He said the comments were “deeply offensive” and “have no place in this House or in our wider society”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak replied that he joined Mr Hancock in “completely condemning those types of comments in the strongest possible terms”.

In closing, the Daily Sceptic calls to readers’ attentions Andrew Bridgen’s qualifications:

Mr. Bridgen, who has a science background, has become Parliament’s most vocal critic of the Covid vaccines. He thus made himself a big target for the pro-vaccine zealots who will have been looking for an excuse to punish and cancel him, and who have predictably leapt on the first ‘offensive’ thing they could find.

Wikipedia states that Bridgen studied genetics and behaviour at the University of Nottingham and graduated with a degree in biological sciences.

The Government does not want their big achievement of the past three years — the vaccine rollout, Europe’s first — to be tainted in any way.

However, judging from the comments, Daily Sceptic readers are supportive of Andrew Bridgen and look forward to hearing more from him on the vaccines this year, which is more than can be said of Matt Hancock, who, as of December 28, was still searching for a celebrity agent to kickstart his new career in reality television.

—————————————————————————————————-

UPDATE Guido Fawkes has reported Andrew Bridgen’s statement on having lost the Conservative whip, complete with video:

The fact I have been suspended over this matter says a lot about the current state of our democracy, the right to free speech, and the apparent suspension of scientific method of analysis of medicines being administered to billions of people.

This is my final instalment on the rise and fall of Matt Hancock, the former Health and Social Care Secretary.

Those who missed them — and the drama of the pandemic — can catch up on parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

July 2021

Britons, including some Conservative MPs, were angry that Hancock was not-so-secretly embracing his female adviser while imposing draconian coronavirus restrictions on the rest of us. Thankfully, The Sun revealed the truth in a ‘world exclusive’.

On July 3, 2021, journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who recently co-authored Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries — now on sale — explained in The Spectator how she missed the scoop, even when presented with the evidence (emphases mine, unless otherwise indicated):

I was sent a compromising picture of the then health secretary and his mistress almost a week before the Sun newspaper sensationally revealed their relationship — and I did not believe it was him

Here’s what happened. On the morning of 20 June I was leafing through the Sunday newspapers when I received a message from an important contact. ‘Good morning. This might brighten your day, I have a guy who says he has incriminating footage of Matt Hancock,’ he wrote breezily. Accompanying the text was a grainy image, no bigger than a postage stamp, of a man in a suit, leaning forward to embrace a raven-haired woman in a figure-hugging dress. ‘What to do next?’ the message asked …

I only had the one poor-quality screen grab (not the video that would later be released) and no information about the original source. The picture had been sent to my contact via an untraceable ProtonMail account. Moreover, the pandemic has sent all manner of conspiracy theorists and pranksters into overdrive, creating perilous working conditions for journalists …

My contact agreed that his source was ‘probably a chancer’, but said he would see what else he could get. ‘No rush,’ the original source said when they discussed arrangements for viewing the full video — and then he or she hotfooted it to the Sun.

A former counter-terror detective studied past photos of Hancock’s office and deduced that Hancock might have had his office extended by appropriating some of the corridor space. The corridor would probably have had a security camera:

On July 1, in Parliament, Labour Shadow Leader of the House Thangham Debbonaire took the then-Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg to task for having previously defended the Health Secretary throughout the pandemic:

That same day, Hancock was in his West Suffolk constituency to apologise to the locals.

The London Evening Standard reported that Conservatives there:

vowed to stick by him after he gave a “heartfelt apology”, despite calls for his deselection.

The former health secretary was on Wednesday told to “do the honourable thing” and stand down by a local Tory councillor …

Tory councillor Ian Houlder told the Standard he was “disgusted” by Mr Hancock’s behaviour and had written to his local association calling for him to be deselected before the next election.

However, after days of silence, the MP’s local association has spoken out in support of Mr Hancock saying he has “faced up to the mistakes” he made.

In a statement, the West Suffolk Conservative Association said: “Following Matt Hancock’s resignation as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, West Suffolk Conservative Association has taken soundings.

“We wish to express our support for Matt, who has served our Constituency tirelessly over the past 11 years.

“Matt has given us a heartfelt apology for recent events, has faced up to the mistakes he has made on both a human and a professional level and expressed sincere contrition.

“We want to thank Matt for the extraordinary job he has done as Health Secretary leading the country through the pandemic and overseeing the roll out of the world’s best vaccination programme, and look forward to working with him as he continues to represent his constituents in Parliament.”

Councillor Houlder said the MP’s actions were “beyond the pale” and added: “It’s nothing to do with his sordid affair because otherwise you’d have an empty parliament wouldn’t you?

“It’s the very fact he stood up there for a year spouting, pontificating, ordering, browbeating, slagging off people who broke his rules.”

Mr Hancock’s constituency association was said to be divided in the wake of his decision to leave his wife of 15 years, Martha, who is a popular figure. He is said to have delegated much of the work of networking with local worthies to his wife.

One anonymous councillor told the Telegraph there was not “outrage” but a “sense of sadness” for the family. They added: “There is support for Matt as a constituency MP and that seems to be holding up.”

On July 3, The Sun accused Labour’s Shadow Deputy Leader Angela Rayner, a grandmother, of hypocrisy in slamming Hancock’s affair when she was allegedly having one herself, with a fellow Labour MP:

ANGELA Rayner has been accused of hypocrisy after calling out Matt Hancock over his affair — while keeping quiet on the nature of her relationship with a married MP.

The Labour deputy leader, 41, grew close to Shadow Minister Sam Tarry after being wed for a decade and it is understood his marriage is now in crisis.

Her bond with the father of two was revealed in The Sun on Sunday last October.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen declared: “The public deserves the same transparency from Angela Rayner as she has demanded of Matt Hancock.

“She’s taken the moral high ground on this matter on every occasion. You can always bank on the Left for their constant hypocrisy.”

Mrs Rayner, who has two children with estranged husband Mark, wrote to Boris Johnson demanding he sack Mr Hancock following the revelations.

The following day, the paper’s veteran columnist Trevor Kavanagh said that publishing Matt Hancock’s security camera photo and video was the right thing to do:

FREE at last! The Sun did Britain a huge favour last week with our “Hancock – The Movie” scoop.

Nothing else would have dislodged this limpet’s grip on our daily lives.

Since then, it’s been like waking from an anaesthetic to find test-and-trace manacles and Covid leg irons being unlocked and removed.

New Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s comforting bedside ­manner and vow of freedom from July 19 are a relief from the teasing menace of his predecessor.

On July 5, former Conservative MP Norman Tebbit wrote in The Telegraph that this never would have happened in Margaret Thatcher’s day, although he did admit the Cecil Parkinson affair:

I see that Mrs Coladangelo is described as being an “non-executive director” at the Department of Health, but what are the duties of such a post? By whom was she appointed and to whom did she report? That I do not know.

In my time as a Secretary of State in the government of Margaret Thatcher, things were arranged rather differently. I had a Permanent Secretary who was a career civil servant responsible for all the officials throughout the Department and was in turn responsible to me. That was a clear and sensible arrangement which was wrecked by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s half-witted scheme to bring in outsiders from the private sector to take senior posts in the civil service.

Before then, had a minister begun to form an emotional or sexual relationship with one of his staff, she (or he) would have been promptly moved to another post before things became dangerous. It was not that politicians in those days had higher moral standards, but there was an effective way of stopping them from making fools of themselves and it generally worked well. However, even in those days there was nothing which could have saved my old friend Cecil Parkinson from his foolish affair with his constituency secretary, who was not a civil servant. The affair was exposed when she bore him a daughter.

On July 10, the Mail on Sunday reported that Hancock would need more money to fund his new life. Hmm. This seems to presage what happened late in 2022, with his appearance on I’m A Celebrity … Allegedly, the show paid him £400,000 to appear in the Australian jungle. Interesting:

Matt Hancock is already plotting how to salvage his political career – despite being urged by some former Cabinet colleagues to quit the Commons entirely.

The ex-Health Secretary has appealed to current and former Ministers for advice on how to fight back after his resignation, The Mail on Sunday can reveal …

They also warned that even if he stayed on, he could struggle to supplement his backbench MP’s salary of nearly £82,000 with outside jobs, which they say he would now need to.

One former Minister he has consulted said that Mr Hancock, who has left his wife for Ms Coladangelo, would need more money to ‘fund his new life’.

The Sun also reported the story.

On July 15, the Information Commissioner’s Office seized computers and other electronic equipment connected with the leak of the CCTV leak leading to Hancock’s resignation:

Guido Fawkes reported (red emphases his):

The statement just released goes on to say “Personal computer equipment and electronic devices were seized as part of the operation”. The ICO’s Director of Investigations says it’s vital everyone, including government employees, have trust and confidence in the protection of their personal data. Victoria Newton recently said she’s “done everything I can to protect” The Sun’s source…

On July 31, the Mail reported, complete with photos, that Hancock and his girlfriend were still living apart:

Matt Hancock and his lover Gina Coladangelo are ‘together, apart’ as they try to build a relationship out of the public gaze, say friends.

The former Health Secretary is understood to be in regular contact with Ms Coladangelo – but they are not yet living together.

On Thursday, Mr Hancock was pictured collecting his belongings from his former marital home in London.

The father-of-three was handed a bin bag containing his clothes, along with ten boxes, two suitcases, a child seat and a coffee machine – and was watched at the garden gate by a confused-looking family dog.

August 2021

On August 1, The Telegraph‘s Gordon Rayner wrote:

It is a measure of the brutal nature of politics that scarcely a month has passed since Matt Hancock’s resignation, yet he already has the air of a figure from history.

The former Health Secretary risked everything to pursue an affair with his aide Gina Coladangelo, and four weeks after it was so humiliatingly exposed, the future of his relationship with her, as well as the future of his career, appears to be up in the air.

Mr Hancock has not given up hope of rescuing his ministerial career, and in recent days has begun to re-engage with fellow MPs via a backbenchers’ WhatsApp group in what colleagues interpreted as an attempt to test the water …

There was no sign of contrition, however, from Mr Hancock, who was blamed for the Tories’ narrow defeat in the Batley and Spen by-election, which came days after the scandal over his affair …

That night former Conservative/UKIP MP Douglas Carswell told GB News:

We must never be in a position where someone like Matt Hancock can tell us if we can hug our grandma.

On Tuesday, August 17, GB News reported that Hancock’s lack of action as Health Secretary might have worsened the pandemic. There was a point where the Test and Trace app was pinging people’s phones constantly, advising them to stay at home. It was called the pingdemic:

The article says:

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock was reportedly asked whether the NHS Covid-19 app should be amended to alert contacts of positive cases from two days back rather than five days, but no change was made.

The app was tweaked earlier this month amid the so-called “pingdemic”, which had seen hundreds of thousands of alerts sent out telling people to isolate because they had come into contact with someone who had the virus.

The high number of alerts caused disruption to several sectors as workers had to stay at home after being pinged.

It was announced on August 2 that fewer contacts would be notified in future after the app’s “logic” was updated to alert only those contacts two days prior to a positive test, rather than five days.

But the Guardian has reported an unnamed Whitehall source as saying Mr Hancock, who resigned on June 26 amid public outrage after leaked CCTV footage showed him kissing an aide in breach of coronavirus social distancing rules, had previously been told that the app was working to five days, rather than two.

The person told the newspaper: “The standard definition of a contact in all the scientific and public stuff from Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace is someone who has been in contact from two days before they have symptoms and if they don’t have symptoms but test positive, you go back two days from the test.

“But the app had five days in it. A submission was made to Hancock from Test and Trace people around the time of his resignation saying ‘it’s five days but it should be two days: should we change it now?’ And it didn’t happen.”

On August 17, The Spectator and Guido Fawkes got footage of Hancock travelling on the Tube’s District Line.

The Spectator reported:

the 42-year-old has become an unlikely star on TikTok after recently encountering a group of youthful commuters on the District Line. 

The group were apparently unaware of Hancock’s identity but delighted in teasing the poor ex-minister about his choice of hat wear and stealing the baseball cap to wear themselves. Videos recorded of the encounter detail how ‘The whole tube was singing… We love you Matt, we do!’ — something which ‘made our night’ according to the adolescent uploader.

Guido said:

He’s lost his wife, his job, his home and now his hat: footage has emerged of Matt Hancock being ribbed by members of the public on a tube. The video shows a lady stealing Matt’s headwear, before running off with it at Embankment station. He then appears to take his mask off as he shouts after her. Would SAGE approve, Matt?

On August 20, Guido Fawkes posted that the then-Secretary for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden pinched the fetching pop art portrait of the Queen for his own office. It’s not a Warhol, by the way. It’s by a British artist who paints in the same style:

Guido explained:

Oliver Dowden has posted a photo to social media with a notably redecorated Whitehall office, resplendent with some well-known pop-art of the Queen. Politicos will immediately recognise the artwork given it spent the entirety of the pandemic positioned behind Matt Hancock during interviews in his ex-DHSC office. One of Sajid’s first decisions in office was to replace the piece with an 1890s oil painting…

While Hancock wasn’t able to take home the prized painting, which belongs to the Government Art Collection, he thankfully didn’t leave his personalised ‘movie director‘ chair around for Dowden to pinch. With rumours of a reshuffle circulating, perhaps the painting isn’t the only thing from the DHSC office Dowden has his eye on…

Hat Tip: Hugo Gye

September 2021

On September 3, The Telegraph reported that a source told them Hancock was no gentleman:

Matt Hancock is “no gentleman” and has failed to apologise to his wife for cheating on her, according to a source close to the family.

The source said Mr Hancock’s wife, Martha, had been “crushed” and “shattered” by his infidelity and that he had shown a “lack of concern” for her and their three children. It has been reported that she is suffering from long Covid, having contracted the virus from her husband …

The ongoing upset and distress have prompted a source close to the family to speak out for the first time, saying they have been “appalled” by his behaviour … 

The source said: “Martha has been crushed by this, and Matt is only interested in his career and his mistress. He is a despicable individual.

“He has shown no concern for Martha or the children. He has been uncaring to Martha even though she backed him throughout his career and introduced him to the people that made his career. She has always defended him throughout.”

Hancock’s attempts at getting back in the public’s good books were failing dismally.

On September 4, the Mail reported:

Matt Hancock’s bid to rebuild his reputation by running the London Marathon has hit the buffers after pranksters flooded his charity page with mocking taunts.

The former Health Secretary is running in next month’s event to raise funds for St Nicholas Hospice Care in his West Suffolk constituency – a decision that critics say is a crude bid at rehabilitating his reputation.

But the move already appears to have backfired, with his JustGiving page flooded by people donating the minimum sum and using the opportunity to write an accompanying message condemning his philandering and record in office.

By last night, 459 ‘supporters’ had pledged £3,653, but the majority of messages were critical.

Matt Reilly wrote: ‘If you break an ankle, I’ll donate another £100’

Dauda Bappa wrote: ‘Happy to donate to this hospice, but you are a truly terrible human being, Matt. I guess hate can be used for good. Break a leg xx.’

Another said: ‘You, sir, are the worst kind of over-privileged slug pretending to be a human.’

On September 6, Guido had an update:

Hancock’s attempted return back to the Tory fold isn’t going as smoothly as he may have liked. Back in recess he made his first appearance on the Commons’ backbenches, though didn’t make a speech as he instead attempted to schmooze colleagues in the tea room. At least one of his colleagues told Guido they found it pretty uncomfortable…

Last week, he made headlines after announcing his participation in a sponsored run for a local hospice, only to see plenty of online trolls pay money just to throw abuse at him in the donation comments section.

Matt clearly didn’t see the funny side to this; while he can’t stop the trolling entirely, he’s forced all donations to now come from ‘anonymous’. Meaning jokers can no longer pose as his mum or Gina Coladangelo.

His luck isn’t set to improve this week either. On Thursday he’s to be a Tory association’s guest of honour for the first time since The Sun turned him into a persona non grata. Tory members in Chipping Barnet will be the first to enjoy his company at venue. Guido hears the room can cater for up to 350 bodies. The number of ticket sales so far? Around 70…

October 2021

Matt Hancock ran the London Marathon as planned in order to raise money for the hospice in his constituency. The Mail included a video of him in their report of October 3.

On October 12, the Mail reported that there was good news for Hancock, at last:

Matt Hancock made a surprise comeback last night as he was given a United Nations role just four months after resigning as health secretary.

The former Cabinet minister will advise African nations on how their economies can bounce back from the pandemic.

The Daily Mail understands he won the unpaid job thanks to Nimco Ali, a campaigner against female genital mutilation who is a close friend of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie.

Guido has a copy of his acceptance letter.

Alas, Hancock’s good news was short-lived.

On October 16, The Telegraph reported that the UN rescinded his appointment:

Matt Hancock has lost his new job at the United Nations just four days after being appointed, following outrage from figures who condemned the “jaw dropping” decision to appoint him as a special envoy for Covid recovery in Africa.

The UN’s Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said his appointment was “not being taken forward,” following days of criticism.

Mr Hancock, who resigned his job as Health Secretary in June after he was pictured on CCTV kissing an aide, had said he was “honoured” to take up the role of Special Representative for Financial Innovation and Climate Change.

The Telegraph understands Mr Hancock was told by the United Nations that it cannot appoint sitting MPs to be special representatives, and that it was forced to rescind the appointment.

Mid-month, Hancock began getting his own back on the public.

His first article appeared in the Mail on Sunday, September 18, in which he called anti-vaxxers ‘blinkered and dangerous’. However, it was only in October when we found out how much he got paid for penning it. Guido’s Christian Calgie revealed that Hancock received £2,000:

His second that I know of, co-authored with Labour MP Rupa Huq — not a natural political pairing by any means — appeared in The Times on Wednesday, October 20. If the anti-vaxxer article infuriated me, this one took the biscuit. 

The two of them attempted to portray the two tragic assassinations of MPs David Amess, who had just been stabbed at his local surgery (to meet members of the public), and Jo Cox, slain a week before the Brexit referendum in June 2016, as results of online harassment. Neither was anything of the sort!

‘MPs need more protection online’ reads, in part:

The assassination of our kind friend and colleague Sir David Amess — he genuinely was a friend to so many — has shocked parliament to its core, but the aftermath, too, has not been a pretty sight. We were both disgusted to see Michael Gove harassed walking along the pavement. Coming so painfully soon after the murder it shows the urgent need for action. Tightening security at MPs’ surgeries addresses the symptoms not the cause.

There have been hecklers as long as there have been public meetings. But using online social media, keyboard warriors post accusatory, aggressive messages often based on conspiracy theories and lies. Our timelines and inboxes are awash with threats. Women, particularly from ethnic minority backgrounds, get it worst. But white men are not immune either. One user said, “just execute matt hancock live on bbc one i say”

The online harms bill is a good start, but it does not yet tackle anonymous abuse. It is a particular problem that libel laws don’t work in the internet age. It is hard to prove that a single post by a social media user with a few hundred followers causes significant damage, but when that post is shared and added to by hundreds or thousands of others, it has the same effect as a defamatory newspaper piece in days gone by.

A few days later, social media had captured Hancock and his friend on holiday in Split, Croatia:

On October 25, Guido wrote:

Matt Hancock treated his lover Gina Coladangelo to another romantic getaway over the weekend, this time in the port city of Split, Croatia. The pair were spotted sipping wine outside the Lvxor Café on Saturday night. Split? Cynics didn’t expect them to still be together…

Later that day, Guido posted that Hancock wrote to IPSO — the Independent Press Standards Organisation — demanding that images of him be removed from the public domain:

Guido’s post has the text of Hancock’s long letter and this comment:

That horse has bolted through the office doorway. As for the video of Matt and Gina in Split which was circulating widely on social media after a holidaying Briton spotted them and whipped their smartphone out, asking IPSO to intervene would not make any difference. More importantly, as Matt told parliament after the Leveson Inquiry, when he was the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport:

Over many centuries in Britain, our press has held the powerful to account and been free to report and investigate without fear or favour. These principles underpin our democracy and are integral to our freedom as a nation.

The harm done to his children was, as he must know in his heart, a consequence of his own actions. The pictorial reminder disappearing from the papers won’t change that…

How true!

November 2021

Still smarting from public backlash, Hancock put out an advert for a Communications Officer. Oddly, the application dates ran from November 13 to November 14.

On November 15, Guido posted a screenshot of the ad and this commentary:

Over the weekend Guido noticed the former Health Minister looking for a new Communications Officer to undertake his media and press activities. The advert said he wants someone to be “pro-active and re-active communications with all media”, and to create content for social media and assist with wider communication activities. Possibly spurred on by yet more embarrassing headlines over the weekend that he is to write a £100,000 autobiography called entitled “How I Won the Covid War”?

Matt also wants the prospective hire to “Establish, monitor and update” social media, which is surely a mammoth and hardly heartening task.

Unusually, Hancock gave prospective applicants just 24 hours to apply after publishing the ad on Saturday, and closing it on Sunday. Was Matt actually offering fair competition for the job or did he already have a mate in mind? He’d surely avoid giving preferential contract treatment to mates…

The month’s Hancock news ended with The Spectator awards. Hancock’s successor Sajid Javid won the Comeback of the Year Award and thanked ‘the CCTV guy’ who leaked the incriminating visuals:

December 2021

December’s news was mercifully brief.

On December 11, Hancock attempted to get down with the kids at the Jingle Bell Ball held at London’s O2 Centre. Had he seen a fashion stylist? One wondered:

On December 8, The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole won the Scoop of the Year prize at the British Journalism Awards and took a swipe at attempts to censor the images that brought about Hancock’s downfall.

On December 13, the Press Gazette reported:

Sun political editor Harry Cole has pledged “we will keep fighting on” amid a “continuing erosion of journalistic rights”.

Cole made the comments after The Sun picked up the Scoop of the Year prize at the British Journalism Awards on Wednesday night for revealing then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s office affair with aide Gina Coladangelo while Covid-19 restrictions were in place.

Cole collected the award alongside Sun head of news Alex Goss and executive news editor Ben O’Driscoll …

But he warned the aftermath of the Hancock scoop had demonstrated an ongoing “systematic decay of freedom of the press”.

The Information Commissioner’s Office raided the homes of two suspected whistleblowers in the case who may have leaked the CCTV footage of Hancock and Coladangelo’s incriminating office snog.

Cole said The Sun also witnessed threats from government officials and even heard accusations of involvement by Chinese and Russian agents and spies.

“Everyone in this room, whether they read The Sun or not, should know that this has a chilling effect on the freedom of the press and we are really glad that public interest journalism is recognised in this way,” he said.

Cole said the Hancock story was a “really important scoop for us”, adding: “We pride ourselves on our reputation as protectors of free speech and democracy.

“There are sometimes stories you write that you have to make a public interest argument for. It was so clearly and obviously in the public interest we just knew it was a story that was going to leave everyone in our trail. As a journalist there’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve got one of those in the bag.”

As well as the ICO investigation, Cole pointed to the threat posed by proposed reform to the Official Secrets Act which could see journalists treated like spies for reporting on matters of public interest.

January 2021

On January 21, 2022, the Mail reported on the actual costs of MPs, which are much higher than one thinks: an average of £240,000 per MP per annum.

Hancock came in for special mention:

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was the most expensive MP in the Cabinet, with total costs of £225,305. This compared with £174,454 for Boris Johnson and £164,545 for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

On January 18, the Evening Standard reported that Hancock took an icy dip in the Serpentine in Hyde Park:

The 43-year-old Tory MP had been jogging in a foggy Hyde Park with members of the Parliamentary Running Club, including former Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland and former junior health minister Lord Bethell.

On reaching the Serpentine, where other swimmers had broken a thin layer of ice on the surface, the trio stripped off and took to the murky waters.

Mr Hancock, who has only just emerged from isolation after testing positive for Covid for the second time last week, swam for about 20 metres in water chilled by a frosty winter’s night before deciding that was enough.

However, the Serpentine (Serps) Swimming Club was not impressed. Hancock was an interloper:

The Serps Swimming Club had tweeted a photo of him with a notice saying that only members were allowed — no guests:

February 2022

On February 21, Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle called on Hancock to contribute to a debate. Hoyle quipped:

The man for the rules, Matt Hancock!

Guido commented:

He just can’t catch a break…

That month, Hancock decided to reveal more about his new relationship in a podcast.

On February 27, the Mail on Sunday‘s Emily Prescott reported:

Now the dust is settling, he is opening up about the romance. 

My pictures show Matt and Gina at the recording of a yet-to-be released podcast, The Diary of a CEO with Dragons’ Den star Steven Bartlett, which was recorded a couple of weeks ago.

My mole tells me Matt, 43, became very emotional talking about falling in love and said it was ‘totally out of his control’

Matt said it happened quite suddenly, despite knowing Gina since university at Oxford.

He conceded it had been the ‘most difficult year of his life’. 

But Gina was sitting behind the cameras offering loving and supportive glances throughout.

The Mail had more the next day, when the podcast aired. What he said was all very confusing:

Former health secretary Matt Hancock has denied he broke the law by having an affair with a close aide during lockdown that destroyed his political career …

Speaking to The Diary of a CEO podcast, released this morning, Mr Hancock said he ‘fell in love’ with Coladangelo after bringing her in to work with him. 

He told the podcast host, entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den investor Steven Bartlett: ‘It actually happened after the rules were lifted, but the guidance was still in place. I resigned because I broke the social distancing guidelines by then.

‘They weren’t actually rules. They weren’t the law. But that’s not the point.

‘The point is they were the guidelines that I’d been proposing. And that happened because I fell in love with somebody.’ 

People had to stay two metres apart from anyone outside their household or bubble, under the guidance at the time. 

Mr Hancock stressed that his relationship with Miss Coladangelo was serious, saying he hated that some had ‘got the impression somehow that this was [casual sex]’.

Mid-month Steven Bartlett tweeted that he had interviewed Hancock:

He said: ‘Matt Hancock x The Diary Of A CEO! Matt Hancock stopped by with his new partner Gina to speak to me.

‘It’s time to find out what really happened, it’s time to ask the questions we’ve not had answers to; Party gate? Where did the CCTV footage come from? What mistakes did he make?’

He added: ‘This is the first time in the history of The Diary Of A CEO that things got a little heated between me and a guest at one point.

‘However, Matt did answer all of the tough questions I asked him and nothing will be edited out. You will see it all.’

Mr Bartlett also tweeted pictures of Mr Hancock and Ms Coladangelo at the interview, with the former health secretary wearing blue jeans and a navy roll-neck jumper.

Guido had more, along with a video clip. Hancock didn’t think Bartlett was being respectful enough:

Here’s the video clip:

Guido wrote:

Inevitably Hancock was uncomfortable with the topic, clearly unhappy at Bartlett referring to the affair as “casual sex”. He repeatedly asks Bartlett to restart the segment by asking the questions “in a little bit more respectful way”, and seems to think the moment would be edited out of the final interview. It wasn’t.

He advised:

Watch at your own discretion…

March 2022

On March 2, The Telegraph‘s Alison Pearson commented on the podcast, saying that Hancock was ‘dressed as the Milk Tray man’:

Talking to Steve Bartlett on the Diary of a CEO podcast, Hancock, dressed like the Milk Tray man, said he “fell in love” and “it all happened quite quickly. It actually happened… after the rules were lifted, but the guidance was still in place… I resigned because I broke the social distancing guidelines. By then, they weren’t actually rules. They weren’t the law. But that’s not the point. The point is they were the guidelines that I’d been proposing. And that happened because I fell in love with somebody.

Let us pause for a moment to unpick that knotty thicket of delusion and self-justification. Hancock clearly knew full well that what he was telling the British people they must do after a certain date was just guidance not regulation. As Lord Sumption has observed: “I think the Government knew people did not understand the difference and exploited their confusion.”

Now, Hancock has the brass neck to exploit that confusion to his own advantage. Hey, it was fine to be canoodling in his office because no law said that he couldn’t, even though lesser mortals stayed well away from their best beloved for a year in case they got caught. 

Unfortunately, such a realisation would require a degree of self-knowledge to which Hancock is a stranger. He is certainly in love – with himself mostly – and that fierce self-love leads him to think that, if he keeps bouncing up … then the public will forgive and forget.

We won’t, believe me. 

I’m not at the forgiveness point, either.

I have many more Matt Hancock pandemic bookmarks but will wait for the official inquiry before going into them.

The podcast was still a hot topic on March 6, as the Mail on Sunday had more about Hancock’s accusation that Bartlett wasn’t respectful enough:

During the two-hour interview for a podcast last week, Mr Hancock protested when Mr Bartlett mentioned ‘casual sex’ while questioning him about his extra-marital affair with aide Gina Coladangelo – in breach of his own Covid restrictions.

Mr Hancock raised his hand and asked Mr Bartlett to ‘ask the question in a little bit more respectful way’. He added: ‘I have not had casual sex with anybody, I fell in love.’

Mr Hancock asked the host if could ‘start this section again’, and this newspaper understands that the MP also told Mr Bartlett ‘this is off’ – meaning off the record – as they discussed rephrasing the question to remove the reference to casual sex.

Mr Bartlett said: ‘OK, let me ask the question and we can crack the question, all right?’ He then continued the interview.

Mr Hancock and his aides thought the brief exchange would be cut and were horrified to discover it had been left in when the podcast was posted online last week. But Mr Hancock’s words ‘this is off’ were not included.

The Mail on Sunday understands that Mr Hancock feels ‘stitched up’ and that he had agreed to do the interview with Mr Bartlett on the basis that nothing would be left in that he considered to be ‘hurtful’ to his estranged wife, Martha, or their three children.

On March 25, Will Lloyd wrote a brilliant article for UnHerd listing all of Hancock’s best quotes before and during the pandemic in ‘The tragedy of Matt Hancock’, which is well worth reading.

Lloyd concluded with the fallout of the present day:

The number of children referred for specialist mental health help rises above one million for the first time in 2021. Cases involving those 18 and under increase by 26% during the pandemic. The Royal College of Psychiatrists warns it is “becoming an impossible situation to manage”.

People, including Hancock, like to talk about learning the lessons of the pandemic. So we can prepare better for the next one. They don’t realise that between the million mentally hamstrung teenagers, the NHS waiting list hitting 9.2 million within two years, an endless backlog of cases in criminal courts, and inflation, that the pandemic hasn’t ended yet. It’s barely started.

April 2022

On April 13, the investigation into the leaked CCTV images ended with no charges brought:

Guido reported the text from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and his own summary:

The Information Commissioner’s Office closed their investigation into the Department for Health CCTV leak that saw Hancock’s snog with then-aide Gina Coladangelo splashed on the front page of The Sun. The ICO announced this afternoon that their investigation had found “insufficient evidence to prosecute two people suspected of unlawfully obtaining and disclosing CCTV footage from the Department for Health and Social Care”. They shouldn’t have been investigating anyway…

On April 24, GB News’s Dan Wootton interviewed Hancock for 30 minutes about the pandemic policies:

Hancock justified himself throughout. I felt sorry for Wootton, who was — and still is — trying to get the truth:

May 2022

On May 5, Hancock opened his home to Ukrainian refugees.

The Telegraph reported:

Matt Hancock has welcomed seven Ukrainian refugees and their four dogs into his family home in Suffolk.

Mr Hancock, the former health secretary, first revealed that he would take part in the Homes for Ukraine scheme last month after being contacted by a constituent.

The MP for Suffolk West has now housed the constituent’s mother, two sisters, niece, nephew, and the nephew’s partner and grandmother.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know Ukrainian food and picking up the basics of the language,” he said. “It’s humbling living with three generations from one family who have escaped war with little more than the clothes on their backs. It brings perspective.”

Writing in The Spectator, he added that the teenagers staying with him had continued their studies through remote learning …

July 2022

On July 19, Hancock presented a guest phone-in on LBC.

A guest got the better of him and Hancock muted him:

Guido has the story and video, including an update from a friend of Hancock’s saying he was right to mute the man:

Matt Hancock is spending the day behind the LBC mic, presenting what should be a radio phone in, though it’s coming across as a prolonged party political broadcast on behalf of Rishi Sunak™. Matt was left hot under the collar at one point following some searing criticisms from a member of the public. John from Edinburgh called out Hancock’s legacy in dealing with the management of rare conditions, calling him a “totally useless health secretary”. Before too long Matt could clearly no longer take the barrage, angrily signalling for a producer to mute the call before launching into an uninterrupted rant. For the second time in recent history, Matt was unfortunately undermined by a camera he presumably forgot was running…

Here’s the video:

October 2022

On October 24, as Rishi Sunak received his coronation as Conservative Party leader, Matt Hancock was one of the Party’s MPs meeting at CCHQ to congratulate him.

Sunak brushed past him as if he weren’t there:

The Telegraph reported:

He was once the health secretary, at the helm of one of the most important government departments during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But Matt Hancock appeared to have slipped down the hierarchy on Monday, after being ignored by Rishi Sunak on his way into Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) as party leader for the first time.

The former health secretary, who nominated Mr Sunak for the Conservative Party leadership this week and sat next to him in Cabinet when the pair served under Boris Johnson, looked on as his old colleague greeted others.

On October 31, Guido told us that Hancock dropped his bid to run as the new chair of the Treasury Select Committee:

Matt Hancock’s campaign for the chairmanship of the Treasury select committee has come to a premature end. Passed over by Rishi, the former Health Secretary was keen to stress he was still in play, and that “a number of people suggested I should go for Chair”. The number just wasn’t large enough…

November 2022

Undoubtedly, November was Britain’s longest month of enduring Hancock since the pandemic.

If Parliament wouldn’t acquiesce to bringing him back into the fold, perhaps a television audience would do so.

On November 1, we discovered that the disgraced former Health Secretary was planning to go Down Under in I’m a Celebrity … Get Me out of Here:

Guido told us more:

Intent on proving his midlife crisis hasn’t yet peaked, Matt Hancock is jetting off to Australia to enter the jungle as the 12th campmate on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, the Sun has revealed. The new series kicks off on November 6th, with Hancock arriving as a late contestant soon after. Cabinet hopes dashed, he’s now off to become the King of the Jungle…

A political ally of Hancock’s sent Guido a lengthy justification for the decision, which includes promoting Hancock’s notional dyslexia campaign, of which we had never heard before this. Excerpts follow:

I’m A Celeb is the most watched show on TV. Matt doesn’t expect to serve in Government again, so it’s an incredible opportunity for him to engage with the 12million Brits who tune in every single night

There are many ways to do the job of being an MP. Whether he’s in camp for one-day or three weeks, there are very few places people will be able to see a politician as they really are.

Where better to show the human side of those who make these decisions than with the most watched programme on TV? …

Matt’s talked to the whips, in the same way any MP would when going on a foreign visit, which happens all the time. As I say, Matt doesn’t expect to serve in Government again, but he can support Rishi and the Government in different ways.

This is an amazing opportunity to engage with the public and talk about issues he really cares about – including his dyslexia campaign.

Hancock’s friend said he’d had discussions with the Whips Office and that everything was fine.

Well, it wasn’t fine at all. Hancock had the Conservative whip withdrawn and, to this day, still sits as an Independent:

Guido wrote, ending with the show’s familiar catchphrase:

… A statement from the Chief Whip Simon Hart:

Following a conversation with Matt Hancock, I have considered the situation and believe this is a matter serious enough to warrant suspension of the whip with immediate effect.

He was a Tory MP… now he’s out of there.

The Sun also had the story:

The news of Hancock’s imminent television appearance for days on end did not please everyone in his West Suffolk constituency.

Guido posted:

Matt Hancock’s local constituency deputy chairman tells PA [the Press Association]:

I’m looking forward to him eating a kangaroo’s penis. Quote me. You can quote me that.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper disagreed with that assessment but did think it was right that Hancock had the whip removed:

Guido had more:

In headlines Guido never thought he’d be writing, the new Transport Secretary Mark Harper told Sky News he is not looking forward to watching his now-ex colleague Matt Hancock eat a kangaroo’s penis on I’m A Celebrity. As a former Chief Whip himself, Harper agrees with Simon Hart’s decision to sack Hancock and said it was correct given mincing off to the Jungle is not compatible with being an MP. Maybe eating kangaroo penis should be added to the list of potential Chief Whip punishments…

While Hancock denied that he’d lost his marbles for deciding to go on the reality television programme, his fellow Conservatives made a laughing stock out of him at PMQs on November 2, including Anthony Mangnall and Anne-Marie Trevelyan:

On November 8, some of his West Suffolk constituents were deeply unhappy, as The Telegraph‘s Gordon Rayner revealed:

After accusing him of abandoning his constituents, the council in the biggest town in Mr Hancock’s constituency has held a show of hands on his future – and decided that he should “do the honourable thing and resign”

Mr Hancock, 44, has been the MP for West Suffolk since 2010. However, there is speculation that he might stand down at the next general election after being overlooked for a Cabinet job by Rishi Sunak, the new Prime Minister, and then leaving his post to appear alongside celebrities including [Princess Anne’s son-in-law] Mike Tindall, Boy George and [DJ] Chris Moyles … 

He has also filmed a series of another show, Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, which will be shown next year.

In Haverhill, where around 27,000 of his constituents live, the town council has told him to “clear the pitch” after its members held a vote and decided by a majority that it should tell him to quit.

In a letter sent to his office, the 13-member authority, which has several Tory councillors, accused the MP of losing interest in his day job.

Written by Colin Poole, the council clerk, it said: “By a majority vote members of the council have directed me to express their displeasure at your decision to absent yourself from your duty to your constituents to join the cast of ITV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! …

Currently there is no one to speak for West Suffolk in the House of Commons and your actions are unlikely to gain any sympathy for the area when all the other parliamentarians are in the chamber fighting their own corners.

“By your actions you have made it clear to everyone that you see your future outside of politics.”

On November 12, The Telegraph gave the previous day’s I’m a Celebrity … instalment three out of five stars. The other contestants grilled Hancock on his pandemic policies. Hancock pleaded for forgiveness:

On I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! (ITV), the skiving MP was voted by viewers to face his third Bushtucker Trial in as many days. This looks set to become a nightly occurrence.

Hancock’s latest challenge was this year’s first eating trial: “La Cucaracha Cafe”, a Mexican-themed dinner-à-deux with campmate Boy George.

For pudding, Hancock got a long overdue grilling about his pandemic blunders and wound up weeping for forgiveness. This was the much-maligned minister’s day of reckoning and the reason ITV gambled on signing him up. They will surely be rewarded with big ratings and copious column inches …

When he trotted out the same “falling in love” excuse, newsreader Charlene White rightly gave him short shrift: “My aunt died from Covid in the first wave. We couldn’t visit her in hospital. I had to sit by myself at her funeral. We couldn’t hug each other because we were following guidance. I get that you fell in love but for a lot of families like mine, sorry doesn’t really cut it.”

When White tackled him on PPE procurement and the care homes fiasco, you could almost hear viewers nationwide cheering her on. Referring to the impending public inquiry, England Lioness Jill Scott wondered whether “Bushtucker Trials are practice for your big trial”. DJ Chris Moyles was more succinct, calling Hancock a “b***end”.

Hancock eventually admitted: “What I’m really looking for is a bit of forgiveness.” When he became tearful – marginally more believably than when he pretended to blub on breakfast TV – White surprised herself by hugging him. Moyles was less convinced: “He’s pulled the mask slightly off his chin but I still think he’s not telling us the full truth.” The majority at home were equally unmoved by Hancock’s brazen bid for sympathy …

Just 18 months since he resigned in disgrace, Hancock trousering £400,000 for larking around on a light entertainment show left a sour taste in many mouths. At least Friday night’s bestial buffet was equally tough to stomach. That campfire interrogation also made for vital viewing. Nearly three years since the start of the pandemic, it’s high time that politicians were answerable to the people who lived through their failures. Strange how it happened 9,000 miles away on reality TV but these are the times we live in.

On November 13, The Sunday Times told us more about the decisions behind Hancock’s appearance in Australia:

When Matt Hancock eventually leaves the I’m A Celebrity … jungle, his girlfriend, Gina Coladangelo, will be waiting for him on the TV show’s wooden bridge.

The former health secretary has said that seeing her will be the “best thing about being kicked out”, but friends say he also sought her public relations wisdom before agreeing to appear on the ITV show. “He consulted her at length,” said a friend of the couple. “They are very much a team.”

Before he entered the jungle, Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, sought the advice of his family, friends, his Westminster staff and colleagues, although sources say he kept the circle tight to prevent the news leaking.

“I told him there were pros and cons to it, and it basically depended on what he wanted to do career-wise over the next decade,” said a friend he consulted in the summer. “If he wanted to climb the greasy pole, play the Westminster game, sit around waiting for a call to be a cabinet minister again, and otherwise just be a Tory backbencher for the next 20 years, that he shouldn’t do it.

“But if he wanted a platform to engage with millions of viewers, push a lot of the campaigns he cares about, show what he’s actually like as a person, and didn’t mind probably not serving in government again, then it could be a good opportunity … It was obviously very high risk.”

Friends say Hancock, 44, was torn. When he was forced to resign as health secretary in June 2021, he told acquaintances that he was expecting to be back in the cabinet “by Christmas”. While that did not happen, friends say he still believed he could be back on the front bench one day. He turned down the show twice before agreeing to take part

sources close to Hancock say his children were keen for him to go on the show, and he was there to raise awareness of dyslexia

On that night’s episode, viewers voted Hancock in as camp leader. The Guardian reported:

Matt Hancock has said being voted leader of the I’m a Celebrity campsite “more than makes up for” losing the 2019 Tory party leadership election.

Talk about selling one’s soul for a mess of pottage!

There was more:

Sunday’s episode of I’m A Celebrity saw Hancock receive enough votes from the public to enter a head-to-head with former England rugby star Mike Tindall for control of the campsite …

After their win, Hancock said: “Obviously, it’s a great honour and privilege to be camp leader. I want to thank everybody who voted for me.”

[Fellow contestant Christine] White said: “Does this win feel sweet, especially after you lost to Boris? Do you feel like you have been vindicated?” Prompting him to reply: “This more than makes up for it.”

On November 15, Guido kept his readers up to date. The previous day — Day 6 — Hancock was in a snake-filled coffin and had to:

hunt for keys in the dark to unlock stars … He managed a middling 7 of 11, though did stay surprisingly calm considering snakes had been one of his major fears. To be fair, as an MP he should be used to snake-infested spaces.

Meanwhile, back home, The Telegraph reported on the complaints flooding in to Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary standards commissioner:

Rules for MPs would need to be changed to investigate Matt Hancock’s I’m A Celebrity appearance, the standards commissioner said on Tuesday, despite suggesting he had brought the Commons “into disrepute”.

Kathryn Stone, who will step aside from her post in January, revealed her office received dozens of complaints about Mr Hancock, the former health secretary who lost the Tory whip after flying to Australia to take part in the ITV reality show.

But Ms Stone admitted it was not something she had the power to investigate, adding his appearance had raised “really important questions” about the activities of parliamentarians.

“There is no job description for MPs but we have to think very carefully about the conflict between public and private interests, about bringing the House into disrepute, and so on,” she told the standards committee …

She recalled one member of the public who contrasted “the dignity of veterans on Remembrance Sunday with a former secretary of state”, and said Mr Hancock’s “buffet of animal genitalia” during an eating challenge prompted them to question the dignity of public office.

It came as Rishi Sunak condemned Mr Hancock for his I’m A Celebrity stint, telling reporters at the G20: “I think politics at its best can and should be actually quite noble.

“Everyone is going to do it in a slightly different way but I think it’s important that we have our constituents and our country and the forefront of what we do when we go around our day-to-day lives.”

On November 16, Guido told us that on Day 7, Hancock discussed politics but not dyslexia, as promised:

In a first for Matt’s time in the jungle, he hasn’t had to do the daily trial, and he’s certainly been making the most of his free time. Not only did he wake up well rested, he found the time to have his say on Westminster politics. Matt revealed he had called Boris as he was mulling another stab at the leadership, urging him to hold off and “back Rishi”. He also said Liz’s [Truss’s] political career was “totally finished… no ambiguity at all”. That makes two of them.

… At least one public servant is enjoying himself while the country suffers double-digit inflation. With all this free time on his hands, you’d think he might have mentioned his dyslexia campaign. Alas, no.

On Friday, November 18, The Times said that Hancock shared a beach barbecue reward with another contestant. He was also getting on Boy George’s nerves:

While on the other side of the world Jeremy Hunt delivered his autumn statement, attempting to sort out the nation’s dire economic situation, Matt Hancock was sipping drinks on a beach, one of three lucky contestants in I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! to be flown by helicopter to enjoy a barbecue.

The former health secretary was gloriously oblivious of his colleague’s plans to confront the nation’s woes

Ofcom said on Wednesday it had received 1,968 complaints about the ITV show, with about 1,100 people protesting about Hancock being in the jungle. Other viewers expressed concerns about his treatment by other contestants …

On Wednesday viewers saw Boy George, 61, the pop singer, become increasingly frustrated with his camp mates. He appeared to be irritated by a growing friendship between Hancock and Scarlette Douglas, the property expert.

Guido also recapped the episode — Day 9 — noting the absence of the dyslexia campaign:

… Hancock received the privilege of a surf and turf barbecue, which he described as “one of the best meals of your life”. The experience was won in a lucky dip at the expense of his campmates, who plotted in his absence. Finally, Hancock sung his heart out to some pop classics with his campmates around the fire. Matt’s now showcased his singing ability three times on the show. His dyslexia campaign… not once.

Guido also featured Hancock’s tweet urging viewers to vote for him:

On Saturday, November 19, one of Hancock’s former special advisers (Spads), Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, wrote a puff piece for The Times on how great it was working for him. I’ll let readers delve into it for themselves. Was this product placement? One wonders.

On November 20 — Day 11 — Hancock was still surviving the jungle. He mentioned dyslexia for the first time. He also received a letter from his girlfriend.

On November 22 — Day 13 — Hancock outlasted Boy George, but the two sang a duet together beforehand:

On Day 15, November 24, Hancock saw off DJ Chris Moyles. Guido commented:

His constituents must surely agree that would make up for his dereliction of duty as their Member of Parliament…

Hancock ended up being one of the finalists on the last episode, broadcast on Sunday, November 27:

Guido said:

Fair play Matt, it was a surprisingly decent run. Now get back to Blighty and do your job…

Incredibly, Hancock outlasted rugby player Mike Tindall, Princess Anne’s son-in-law. Hollyoaks actor Owen Warner came second and England Lioness Jill Scott won the contest: Queen of the Jungle. It is fitting that she did win, given that the Lionesses won the UEFA — European — Women’s Championship on July 31, the first time England won a major football championship since the 1966 World Cup.

Gina was there to meet her beau.

The Telegraph told us how Hancock’s 21 days in the jungle boosted ratings and changed his perception among the public:

ITV pulled off a coup by signing up the controversial minister. The broadcaster has been amply rewarded for its gamble. Hancock made this series far more talked about than usual. Ratings rose from 8m to 11m. It’s been a resounding return to form for the khaki-clad franchise.

In the process, Hancock went from whipping boy to team player. His success can be seen as two fingers up to the bullies and backbiters, humanising him more than anyone thought possible.

Another Telegraph article reported that Transport Secretary Mark Harper still thought Hancock’s participation was wrong:

Mr Hancock recognised entering the I’m A Celebrity jungle was “controversial” as a former health secretary and MP while Parliament is sitting after leaving the jungle.

He told I’m A Celebrity presenters Ant and Dec: “I know that it was controversial me coming here, I know some people said people in your position shouldn’t put themselves in embarrassing situations.

“But we’re all human and we all put ourselves in it.”

He stressed: “We are normal people.”

It comes after cabinet minister Mark Harper said Mr Hancock should not have gone into the jungle – regardless of how well he did.

The former chief whip told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “If you are a member of Parliament and Parliament is sitting, I think your job is to be representing your constituents, either in your constituency or in Parliament. I don’t think serving members of Parliament should be taking part in reality television programmes.

“However well they do on them, I still think they should be doing the job for which they are paid a good salary – which is representing their constituents.”

Good man.

Unfortunately, that same day, Conservative MP Theresa Villiers told Sophy Ridge of her votes for Hancock (video here).

On Monday, November 28, The Times featured another puff piece about Hancock’s humanity and brilliance. Again, I leave that for readers to decide and wonder if it was a second PR-instigated article.

That day, his Pandemic Diaries, co-authored with the aforementioned Isabel Oakeshott, was on Amazon’s best seller list. Guido revealed that the Mail would be serialising it.

However, that day, storm clouds were brewing.

Guido revealed that Hancock’s people denied that he would be leaving Parliament to pursue life as a celebrity:

This morning, his team is having to firefight allegations from The Sun that he’s planning on leaving politics to pursue celebritydom. The paper’s morning splash reports that Gina contacted “PR pal Mayah Riaz” last week to discuss “a change of career for him… They’re aware they need to act fast and capitalise on the huge interest in him post-jungle.” In response his team shot out a denial:

… They added: “Gina hasn’t even heard of Mayah Riaz”. 

For good measure, Guido asked his office if they could provide a precise date when he’d be back. Apparently, it’s up in the air at the moment. Though his dyslexia bill – of which he made no mention during his stint in the jungle – is up for its second reading on Friday…

Deeper trouble came from Newmarket, the famous racing town in his West Suffolk constituency. The Times reported:

Newmarket town council voted last night officially to call for Hancock to resign. Twelve councillors backed the motion for him to resign, one abstained, and none voted against.

A spokesman for the West Suffolk Conservative Association said: “We are still waiting to hear from Matthew Hancock. There is increasing disappointment about the situation”

A West Suffolk source told The Times: “There would appear to be effectively no support for him to remain as a MP. I think if I put it this way, if you look up the definition of narcissist . . . it’s been endless publicity of the things he has done. It’s about living up to responsibilities, doing the right thing.”

Hancock still had (and has) the Conservative whip suspended. Even his fellow Conservative MP, Business Secretary Grant Shapps, put the boot in:

Grant Shapps, the business secretary, said yesterday it would be “for the whips to decide what to do”. He told Times Radio: “Why would you go off and spend all that time in the jungle if you were going to carry on in parliament? I’m only speculating.”

He added: “I think he may therefore have come to the conclusion that his parliamentary career is pretty much done.”

December 2022

On Thursday, December 1, things were becoming painfully clear about Matt Hancock’s future.

Early that morning, the Mail reported:

Matt Hancock ‘underestimated’ the scale of the backlash at his decision to star on I’m A Celebrity, his girlfriend Gina Coladangelo will say today … 

During the post-series Coming Out Show today, he will be seen exiting the campsite to be reunited with his partner and attending a wrap party. 

The episode also sees Ms Coladangelo saying: ‘I think it’s fair to say that Matt underestimated the scale of the reaction to him coming into the jungle

Sir Desmond Swayne, an MP I’d previously highly respected, lauded his colleague in Parliament that day for his ‘sheer spunk’ in the jungle and appealed for the Conservative whip to be restored (video here).

Hancock graced the House of Commons on Friday, December 2, to put forward his Private Members Bill on dyslexia (video here). It was the third bill of the day, prompting Deputy Speaker of the House Nigel Evans to quip:

The third Bill of the day and I know that Mr. Hancock, you appear to be making a habit of coming third these days.

There seemed to be good news on Wednesday, December 7, when Guido received the text of Hancock’s letter saying he would stand down at the next general election:

As one would expect, it’s a lengthy letter. Here are the opening and closing paragraphs (emphases Guido’s):

I am writing to tell you that I do not intend to stand for the Conservatives at the next General Election. I am very grateful for my conversation with the Chief Whip last week, in which he made clear he would restore the whip in due course, but that is now not necessary.

It has been an honour to serve in Parliament and represent the people of West Suffolk. I will play my part in the debate about the future of our country and engage with the public in new ways.

Shortly afterwards, Conservative MPs snubbed him as he sat down for PMQs. Guido’s Simon Carr has the report:

He turned into the fourth bench up, and began the long trek across to an open seat at the end. Sidling, he touched knees and patted the backs of the locals, the indigenous representatives. Some looked up and others didn’t. One or two spoke to him. What were they saying? They’re politicians so it will have been different from what they were thinking. That can only have been: “What on earth are you doing here, you nob? This bench is for Conservative MPs. You lost the whip. You’re not one of us. You don’t exist.”

When Matt got to the furthest space above the gangway he stopped and squeezed himself in beside actual Conservative MPs. One of them, James Gray, didn’t look up from his phone. As far as it’s possible to do while sitting down, Gray turned his back on the interloper, the migrant, the illegal alien.

Hancock smiled, he beamed, he laughed it all off. In his mind, he was blending back in. Acting as if nothing was out of the ordinary, that he had never been away. That being thought of as a nob was actually a compliment.

The great thing about celebrity is that being thought of as a nob counts as recognition, and recognition is the only currency of that happy land. Alas, it is not negotiable coin in the tropical Commons. He was, as far as decently possible, ignored.

Unfortunately, for those of us who want to see the back of Matt Hancock sooner rather than later, that afternoon his team denied that his letter announcing he would stand down had any merit.

Guido explained:

… A close ally of Hancock tells Guido:

This letter is irrelevant. It hasn’t been sent on behalf of the Association, and the chief whip told Matt he was going to get the whip back. Matt had already decided not to stand again when it came to light.

In theory, a no-confidence vote would need to come after an executive council meeting, rather than an Officers’ Group. Guido understands that Hancock’s decision to step down in 2024 doesn’t change the government’s existing line that any decision to return the whip is still entirely within the gift of Simon Hart, something a source refused to deny could still happen. Bizarrely, he could still return to the parliamentary party within the next two years… even with senior members of his own association declaring him unfit for the job.

It would be salutary for everyone in the UK if Hancock’s local Conservative Association keeps piling on the pressure for him to resign. We can cope with another by-election, even if the Conservative candidate loses to a Lib Dem, a possible outcome.

Matt Hancock is not fit for public office. As for what he did to us during the pandemic, well, I don’t have the words for what I’d like to see happen to him in terms of justice.

End of series

Anyone who has missed the previous entries in the series of former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, now a backbench MP with the Conservative whip withdrawn, can catch up on Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

I left off on Friday, June 25, 2021, with Dominic Cummings’s Substack post on Hancock’s and Boris Johnson’s handling of the pandemic.

However, the big news that day was The Sun‘s front page — a ‘world exclusive’ — which had a large photo of Hancock handling a part of his assistant’s anatomy. A security camera captured the image a few weeks before, when social distancing was still in place:

It was bad enough, as I wrote, that he lost all credibility with the Queen the day before when she aired her views to Boris during their weekly meeting.

But The Sun‘s scoop surely meant that Hancock’s dictatorial time was up. And, lo, so it was:

UK coronavirus news: Matt Hancock’s final 48 hours as Health Secretary (June 25-27)

That post included these tweets, the first about his marital situation …

… and the second and third featuring polls saying that Britons wanted him gone, especially under those circumstances:

It was a wonderful start to the weekend.

Matt Hancock’s side of the story

In the final instalment of Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries that the Mail published, he tells his side of the story. Emphases mine below.

Friday, June 25:

The Sun published the story at 2am as a ‘world exclusive’. The picture was a grainy CCTV image of me and Gina embracing in my departmental office.

It was immediately obvious that the story would be huge.

I knew I had to get out of London, and my wonderful driver Mark came to pick me up very early and take me to stay discreetly in the countryside.

At about 8am, a welcome call from No 10: Dan Rosenfield [chief of staff] to say they’d got my back. He offered any support we might need, including sending a Conservative Party press officer to my house.

By 9am I’d had half a dozen sympathetic messages from ministerial colleagues: a terrible sign. They knew that I was in deep trouble.

Nadhim [Zahawi, Minister for vaccine deployment] sent me a piece of advice ‘from a brother’, which sounded very much like an appeal not to resign.

Meanwhile, I went back over all our movements and tried to think of any other rules we might be accused of breaking. Other than the one-metre-plus rule, I couldn’t think of any. ‘Should I do a fast apology for letting everyone down/breaching guidance?’ I asked.

Gina thought it was a good idea, so Damon [Poole, media adviser] began crafting a short statement. I tried to focus on the words, but my head was spinning. The final version of the statement, which went out at lunchtime, accepted that I breached social-distancing guidance and said I was still focused on working to get the country out of the pandemic. I hoped it would quiet the furore.

Yet the story continued to rage: on all the news websites, on the BBC, on Twitter and on just about every other conceivable news outlet.

By mid-afternoon, there were still suggestions that we’d broken the law. It was categorically untrue, and Damon thought we needed to brief harder or put out another line. ‘What’s wrong with ‘No laws were broken’?’ I suggested.

Round and round in circles we went, trying to find the right words. Damon’s mobile phone was practically melting, and I was more stressed than I have ever been in my entire life.

All afternoon, the ‘what, when, where, who, why, how much?’ questions continued. Journalists began suggesting I might have broken the Ministerial Code. I hadn’t, but I could see the way this was going.

My local constituency association in Suffolk was wonderfully supportive. Allan [Nixon, special adviser] worked the phones, trying to get MPs to say something helpful.

My spirits lifted a little when William Hague [former Tory leader] publicly declared that I shouldn’t resign. Not for long, though: by late afternoon it was clear tomorrow’s papers will be hideous.

Saturday, June 26:

Privately, I was still getting positive messages from colleagues. Publicly, few were willing to defend me. Politically, I was increasingly isolated. I felt desperate for my family, my children and Gina’s family and her children, and powerless to protect them. Worse was the knowledge that Gina and I had brought all this on them.

Gina’s feelings of shame and guilt were nearly overpowering her. The jokes and cartoons on social media were excruciating. We were being publicly humiliated, again and again.

While close friends and family were amazing, I also had messages from friends and colleagues who had had terrible lockdown experiences and were very upset. Their disappointment in me – and their sense of betrayal – was agonising.

It is all my fault, of course. I knew I had to take responsibility. I knew in my heart that I had to resign.

I went to Chequers to see the PM. I explained that I had been thinking about what had happened and how it had made people feel – and that my mind was made up. The damage to my family and to the Government was too great.

I told Boris I had to resign.

He was regretful but didn’t argue. We sat on the patio and talked about what this would mean for the management of the rest of the pandemic.

An exchange of letters was prepared, offering and accepting my resignation, and we each edited our letters. We had to decide how to make the announcement, what to say and how.

I must have shot a thousand videos over the course of the pandemic, levelling with the public and thanking the NHS for their dedication. This would be the last.

In the end, the great machinery of the State was nowhere. It was just me and the PM fumbling around with an iPhone. He stood on the grass, holding the phone while I said my piece. It took a few goes to get it right.

He nodded sympathetic encouragement so much throughout the first take that the camera waved up and down. In the end it wasn’t perfect, but I was beyond caring: I had to get it out.

Now messages of sympathy and support flooded in: from my team, the Prof [Chris Whitty, the Government’s Chief Medical Officer], JVT [Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer], Pascal [Soriot, head of AstraZeneca] – and just about everyone else who worked so hard alongside us to save lives.

I’m incredibly grateful to all my team, especially my spads [special advisers] and private office, for going above and beyond in supporting me in what is such a difficult time for them, too.

‘I’m so sorry,’ I told them all. ‘I mean, the honest truth is I made a mistake due to love and it doesn’t matter that it was only guidance. I should not have broken advice that I myself signed off.’

This evening Jamie N-G [Njoku-Goodwin, former spad] whose endless advice – offered long after he stopped working for me – has been so valuable throughout the pandemic, messaged to say I’d done the right thing.

‘There is so much you have done that you should be incredibly proud of. There are people alive today who wouldn’t be if you hadn’t made the decisions you did,’ he said.

‘I love her. That’s what screwed my judgment,’ I replied wretchedly. ‘Love does that to us all. I hope you can both be happy,’ he said.

‘Of that I have no doubt,’ I replied.

As for Boris – well, if anyone knows how to survive a catastrophic political and personal mistake, it’s him.

‘Time to dive beneath the ice cap,’ was his advice.

Here’s the awkward video from Sky News:

That concludes the Mail‘s excerpts from Pandemic Diaries. The paper posted the following (emphasis in the original):

Matt Hancock’s book sale royalties will be donated to NHS Charities and good causes relating to dyslexia. 

Hancock is a dyslexic and had special tutoring to enable him to pursue his studies at Oxford University.

The book is available now. Someone on social media repositioned it at a bookshop in the Crime section:

https://image.vuukle.com/98cdcb40-7d3c-4d74-8d23-f9daebdfd1a1-14316ab8-684d-4c3e-90ff-4edc55822e5e

However, as my post on his last 48 hours as Health Secretary pointed out, Hancock told us in April 2020 that social distancing was more than guidance, it was an ‘instruction’. I’d included this tweet as proof:

In the days that followed, Sajid Javid — Boris’s first Chancellor — became our new Health Secretary. Questions whirled about the camera, security breaches and ministerial code breaches. Oliver Tress is the name Hancock’s girlfriend’s husband. He owns the Oliver Bonas chain of shops:

UK news: Sajid Javid’s return to Cabinet as Health Secretary (June 27-28)

UK coronavirus news: will Matt Hancock be investigated? (June 28; Oliver Tress, restriction-free Wimbledon video)

MPs worried about Matt Hancock’s security camera (June 28)

By now, most Britons know that Hancock met his girlfriend when they were undergraduates at Oxford. They both worked at the student radio station. Recollections from their contemporaries differ as to whether Hancock was part of the in crowd or whether he was a geek on its periphery.

Sky News’s Beth Rigby put that period of history in perspective for us:

On June 26, 2021, The Telegraph explained how the woman got involved in Hancock’s parliamentary career:

Gina Coladangelo started work for Matt Hancock during his short-lived Conservative Party leadership campaign in 2019, it has emerged.

Sources said Ms Coladangelo provided unpaid advice on the Health Secretary’s bid to replace Theresa May.

The work coincided with Mr Hancock sponsoring a parliamentary pass at the same time for his longtime friend, who has worked as communications director of Oliver Bonas, the homeware store, since 2014.

Mr Hancock declared his candidacy during a broadcast interview on May 25 2019, saying “we need a leader for the future, not just now”.

He quit the race on June 14 2019 – a day after coming sixth in the first ballot of Conservative MPs.

Ms Coladangelo was registered as holding a pass sponsored by Mr Hancock under her married name, Gina Tress, from June 2019.

Sources suggested she then started providing unpaid advice to Mr Hancock during the Covid-19 pandemic, before she was hired as a non-executive director at the Department of Health in September.

Her non-executive directorship also raised eyebrows. Who appointed her and how?

Tatler‘s profile of Hancock, published on June 28, told us:

Both Hancock and Coladangelo, who were contemporaries at Oxford, have three children

But, what of this relatively youthful minister? In 2014, he was touted as a junior minister with the skills ‘to reach the top’. Certainly, academically, his results are a tour de force of excellence, a first at Exeter College, Oxford, in what many consider a politician’s ‘rite of passage’, Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE). He worked briefly for a Tory backbench MP before breaking loose as an economist at the Bank of England specialising in the sterling money markets and on housing, before being sent to do a masters at Cambridge. On return, he was plucked out by George Osborne (in 2005) to join the Conservative economics team, later becoming the future chancellor’s chief of staff, and a bonafide ‘high-flyer’.

It was in 2010 that he became an MP for West Suffolk, and today – or at least before the lockdown – he balanced his time between his weekday home in London and his abode in Little Thurlow, in his Newmarket constituency, at the weekends. He has admitted that the work-life balance can sometimes be a challenge, explaining in an interview with the Financial Times in 2014, ‘I pay a lot of attention to timetabling. Both my professional and social and family time gets booked up a long way in advance and then you have to be strict about it.’

Hancock married an osteopath, Martha Hoyer Millar, in 2006, and together they have three small children, a daughter and two sons as well as a dachshund called Hercules (which Hancock will occasionally document via his Instagram). With noble connections, Martha, a red head, is the granddaughter of Frederick Millar, 1st Baron Inchyra, a British diplomat who served as Ambassador to West Germany from 1955 to 1956. Baron Inchyra had four children, two sons and two daughters, their youngest, Dame Annabel Whitehead, was a Lady-in-Waiting to Princess Margaret and later to the Queen

By his own admission, Hancock is fiercely competitive. He once, in 2012, trained as a jockey and won a race at the beating heart of British racing, Newmarket, in his constituency. Going the whole hog, he trained rigorously, shedding two stones and even seeking advice from champion jockey Frankie Dettori. He keeps it up; in December, 2019 he posted a video of himself galloping atop a racehorse on the Newmarket heath, summarising afterwards, ‘absolutely exhilarating, every single time’.

It’s been far from plain sailing for Hancock, he’s overcome his own difficulties. One being dyslexia. His political career apparently practically ended before it even started, when a simple spelling mistake relayed the dead opposite of what he was trying to communicate. As a young Tory campaigner in Guildford he wrote an election leaflet. Instead of saying that candidate Nick St Aubyn wanted to ‘unite’ the community during the 2001 election, a then 22-year-old Hancock wrote: ‘I want to untie the community’. The mistake was spotted after the leaflet had been printed and landed in 50,000 letterboxes. St Aubyn went on to lose the seat by 538 votes.

Hancock reportedly winces at the memory, but told the tale since he does not want other dyslexics growing up thinking they are ‘useless’ like he did. His wife, too, is dyslexic. He says he got on by focusing on numbers-based subjects, taking A Levels in maths, physics, computing and economics, but told the Telegraph, ‘I wish I had been diagnosed earlier’.

Sheer hypocrisy

On June 25, before he resigned, the media rightly began enumerating Hancock’s diktats and his own actions, proving the man’s hypocrisy.

The Telegraph reported:

… How has the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care managed to cling on this long in the first place? …

As the man in charge of England’s health system when the pandemic struck, he is accused of overseeing the disastrous discharge of Covid-positive hospital patients into care homes, mismanaging the supply of personal protective equipment, and the multi-billion pound failure that is NHS Test and Trace.

According to Mr Cummings, Mr Hancock “lied” to Mr Johnson and the public about much of this …

Mr Hancock strenuously denies much of this.

Nevertheless, it comes on top of allegations that he awarded a lucrative contract to supply the Government with tens of millions of Covid test vials to a former neighbour, who lacked experience producing medical supplies after he received a WhatsApp from him.

He also committed a “technical” breach of the ministerial code by failing to declare that a firm run by his sister, in which he has a 20 per cent stake, had been awarded an NHS contract

The danger lies in the familiar territories of hypocrisy and the alleged “chumocracy” of the Johnson administration.

If Mr Hancock’s embrace of Ms Coladangelo contravened government guidelines, as he has now admitted it did, many will remember his reaction to last year’s Neil Ferguson scandal, where he suggested it could be a matter for the police, not to mention countless hugs with loved-ones missed over recent months.

Meanwhile, if evidence emerges suggesting that Ms Coladangelo was brought into the Government because of her personal relationship with Mr Hancock, rather than her expertise, the rap sheet all too quickly becomes too heavy to survive.

The Spectator‘s Steerpike, their gossip columnist, posted ‘Nine times Matt Hancock told us to obey the rules’, most of which follows (bold dates in the original):

From threatening to ban outdoor exercise and close the beaches to advising against sex outside ‘established’ relationships, Mr S presents his round-up of Hancock’s best/worst moments:

9 February 2021:  Ten years in jail for Covid returnees

Hancock announced that people returning from holidays who conceal that they’ve been in a red list country would face a prison sentence of up to ten years …

1 February 2021 ‘Don’t even think about stretching Covid rules’

At another No. 10 press conference, Hancock gave an update on the South African variant in which he said that those living in postcodes affected by the mutation should ‘not even think about stretching the Covid rules.’

10 January 2021: Hancock claimed that flexing of rules ‘could be fatal’

The Health Secretary appeared on the Andrew Marr Show where he was asked about the police fining two women who went for a walk five miles from their homes. Hancock told Marr: ‘Every time you try to flex the rules that could be fatal’ and that staying at home is the ‘most important thing we can do collectively as a society.’

24 September 2020:  Hancock warned people to ‘be sensible’ when having sex during lockdown

Asked about the government’s guidance that only ‘established’ couples should be having sex, Hancock told Sky News: ‘There have to be boundaries, to coin a phrase.’ He warned against casual sex, advising the public to stick to ‘well-established relationships’ and joking, ‘I know I am in an established relationship,’ with his wife

5 July 2020: Hancock threatened to shut down non-compliant businesses

In an interview with Sky Hancock said: ‘We also have the authority to shut down a business if it doesn’t follow that [Covid] guidance.’ When asked by Sophy Ridge if he is ‘looking at shutting down businesses’ Hancock replied: ‘Yes and that’s happened, absolutely’. He added: ‘We’re not just asking nicely, we’re very clear to businesses that these are their responsibilities.’

25 June 2020: Hancock theatened to close the beaches

After sun lovers flocked to the seaside on Britain’s hottest day of the year, Hancock warned that he could close beaches

5 April 2020: Hancock threatened to ban outdoor exercise

At the beginning of the first lockdown, Hancock criticised sunbathers and warned the government would ban outdoor exercise if people continue to ignore government advice. He said on Sky that those who flout the guidance were ‘putting others’ lives at risk and you are putting yourself in harm’s way’. He told Andrew Marr that same day: ‘I don’t want to have to take away exercise as a reason to leave home… if too many people are not following the rules.’ He added:If you don’t want us to take the next step and ban exercise… then the message is very clear… you have to follow the rules.’

Sickening.

The Mail has a report with reactions from several journalists also calling out Hancock’s disgusting hypocrisy, well worth reading.

Questions, questions

Also on June 25, The Spectator‘s Isabel Hardman asked:

Why was it appropriate for Gina Coladangelo to have a parliamentary pass, to become an unpaid adviser at the department and then to receive the paid non-executive director post?

… the important matter here isn’t the affair: these things happen and they’re not normally anyone else’s business. But where it becomes other people’s business is when the affair is interlinked with government business and taxpayer’s money

Then there’s the hypocrisy charge, not just from someone in a government that has restricted personal freedoms so much this past year, but from the very minister responsible for the lockdown legislation and guidance

Questions about the camera and security were many.

At lunchtime that day, The Telegraph reported:

The Government Security Group, which is in charge of security at 800 buildings across Whitehall, has been asked to investigate, with Alex Chisholm, the Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary, expected to be in charge of an inquiry.

There have also been calls for MI5 to get involved in order to rule out any involvement from hostile foreign states.

Government insiders said it is “unheard of” for security cameras to be placed in the offices of Secretaries of State, raising questions about whether the footage of Mr Hancock was filmed on a pre-existing camera or could even have been filmed by a camera deliberately placed there to catch him out.

Day-to-day security at government buildings is typically contracted out to private firms, though the Department of Health and Social Care has yet to confirm if this was the case at their offices in London’s Victoria Street …

One source said: “There are an awful lot of questions that need answering. Lots of government buildings have cameras outside offices that film people going in and out, but I have never seen one inside a Secretary of State’s office. It’s unheard of.

“What was that camera doing there, was it even a CCTV camera, and did Matt Hancock know it was there?

“More importantly, who is it that has access to what is going on inside that office? We are talking about people being able to spy on a Secretary of State, so this is a serious breach of security, regardless of what you think of Matt Hancock’s behaviour” …

Among the questions the Government Security Group will have to answer is whether proper vetting was carried out of staff who have access to CCTV footage, and whether they have been required to sign the Official Secrets Act.

Breaches of the Official Secrets Act can carry a maximum punishment of 14 years imprisonment.

The paper had a follow-up article that evening:

The Telegraph understands Mr Hancock had no idea the camera existed when it captured him kissing adviser Gina Coladangelo

It raises the possibility that the camera was deliberately placed by someone with access to his office with the intention of catching the pair cheating on their spouses and breaking Covid rulesIt is the first time a Cabinet minister has been filmed in their own office without their knowledge.

In a further twist, the Department of Health and Social Care’s offices use CCTV cameras made by the Chinese company Hikvision, which is banned in the US because of national security concerns

One theory being investigated is that the footage was filmed by someone on a mobile phone as it was being played on a CCTV screen, which could make it more difficult to prove who was responsible.

While the revelation could spell the end of Mr Hancock’s Cabinet career, the leak has also triggered a red alert in the Government over who could be spying on the country’s most senior ministers

A source told The Sun that the pair had regularly been caught embracing and that their affair was an open secret among staff. The newspaper claimed the footage was released by a whistleblower disgusted that Mr Hancock was breaking Covid rules while telling people to obey them.

At the time, the country was in stage two of the lifting of lockdown, meaning hugging anyone from outside your own household was banned. On Friday, Mr Hancock admitted breaching social distancing guidance and said he was sorry for having “let people down” …

The £144 million building is owned by Singapore-based property firm Ho Bee Land, which bought it five years ago and has not so far responded to requests for comment.

Cameras on the outside were made by Hikvision, which is owned by the Chinese state and banned in the US because of national security concerns and alleged human rights violations. The firm is alleged to have provided cameras that monitor Uighur Muslims in concentration camps in Xinjiang …

One covert security expert said: “In all my years of working in this field I have never known a camera to be positioned inside an office like this. An office is a private space and that raises all sorts of issues.

“The camera is facing the door so it will give you a record of who is coming and going. But if you wanted to do that you would place the camera outside of the office in the corridor. Also, the angle of the camera is all wrong because if someone walks into the office with their head down this will not be able to see their features. To me it smacks more of a small covert camera that has been placed in a light fixture”

The fact that the camera was part of the overall CCTV network ruled out any suggestion that Ms Coladangelo could have been behind the leak, and friends of Dominic Cummings, the former Downing Street special adviser who has waged a campaign against Mr Hancock since leaving his job last year, insisted he had nothing to do with the leak.

One government source suggested it was possible the camera had been placed in the office to increase security as a result of the Covid pandemic, while another person familiar with the layout of the office speculated that extra cameras could have been put there because it has a balcony, making it more vulnerable to break-ins

Indignity for his wife

On Saturday, June 26, the papers had stories about what was happening in the Hancock’s marital home.

The Mail‘s first report was ‘Callous Matt Hancock dumped wife on Thursday after learning his affair would be finally exposed’:

Matt Hancock dumped his university sweetheart on Thursday night after learning video footage of him kissing an aide in his ministerial office would be exposed.

The ex-Health Secretary, who announced his resignation this evening, raced home to tell his wife of 15 years that he would be leaving her after he was contacted by The Sun newspaper over his affair with Gina Coladangelo …

Martha Hancock, a 44-year-old osteopath, had no clue about the affair until her husband told her their marriage was over, reports The Sunday Times

The reports of the affair came just weeks after Hancock was seen enjoying lunch out with Martha – the granddaughter of Frederick Millar, 1st Baron Inchyra – in London.

The pair were seen waiting for a taxi after eating at Exmouth market in the capital.

They were last seen together in public at the England vs Scotland Euro 2020 match at Wembley a week ago

Mrs Hancock is said to have met her future husband while they were students at Oxford University. Both are dyslexic and he once revealed that the condition helped them bond. 

Descended from a baron and a viscount, Mrs Hancock had a privileged upbringing. Her father, Old Etonian Alastair Hoyer Millar, 84, was secretary of The Pilgrim Trust between 1980 and 1996. The organisation supplies grants to preserve historically significant buildings or artefacts. 

Her mother, Virginia Hoyer Millar, 70, an antiques dealer, was yesterday pictured comforting her daughter in the street by putting her arms around her shoulders. They also linked arms as they strolled around North-West London.  

The couple [the Hancocks] divide their time between London and their West Suffolk constituency home, where there was no sign of Mr Hancock following his resignation.

The ex-Health Secretary wrote in his letter: ‘The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis.

‘I want to reiterate my apology for breaking the guidance, and apologise to my family and loved ones for putting them through this. I also need (to) be with my children at this time.’

Another report from the Mail followed that day, discussing Conservative MPs’ disgust with their colleagues and more information about the respective marriages involved, complete with photographs:

Mrs Hancock looked sad and upset as she left the couple’s home but didn’t speak to reporters about her husband’s alleged infidelity.  Her husband was nowhere to be seen, however, she was still wearing her wedding ring   

The shutters were closed at the £4.5million South London home Mrs Coladangelo shares with Oliver Tress and their three children yesterday. They are also believed to have a country home near the West Sussex coast. She has been working as an advisor for Mr Hancock since last year, with one source saying: ‘Before Matt does anything big, he’ll speak to Gina’

Mr Hancock was meant to be at Newmarket Racecourse to visit the vaccination centre but a spokesman revealed he cancelled at the last minute ‘early this morning’

A Department of Health probe into how the footage from outside Mr Hancock’s office was leaked is expected, with the whistleblower described as a former civil servant who was angry about his ‘brazen’ affair, adding: ‘They have tried to keep it a secret but everyone knows what goes on inside a building like that’ …  

Mrs Coladangelo was appointed as a non-executive director at the department in September, meaning she is a member of the board.

She can claim up to £15,000 in taxpayers’ money in the role, though there is no public record of her appointment

The woman Matt Hancock has been allegedly having an affair with is married to the millionaire founder of fashion firm Oliver Bonas and has worked as its communications director for the past seven years

Gina Coladangelo, 43, knows the Health Secretary from Oxford University, where they both worked on the student radio station and studied politics, philosophy and economics (PPE) – and where he also met his wife Martha, 44. 

Mrs Coladangelo remains Facebook friends with Mr Hancock’s osteopath wife – with whom the Conservative politician has two sons and a daughter – after they both graduated from the university at around the same time. 

And they all reside in London, with Mrs Coladangelo living with her multi-millionaire fashion tycoon husband Oliver Tress and their three children in Wandsworth, while the Hancocks live in Queen’s Park with their children … 

Mr Hancock met Mrs Coladangelo when they worked on Oxford student radio together in the 1990s. Mr Hancock was a minority sports reporter on Oxygen FM and they would have socialised together at Exeter College, Oxford.

Mrs Coladangelo went on to marry Mr Tress, 53, who is founder of fashion chain Oliver Bonas, named after his ex-girlfriend Anna who is cousin of Prince Harry’s former partner Cressida Bonas.

It is not known exactly when Mrs Coladangelo and Mr Tress wed, although they were listed on the electoral roll together with her maiden name as recently as 2008, and then her married name of Gina Tress by 2011.

Mr Tress founded Oliver Bonas in London in 1993 with handbags and jewellery he had brought from Hong Kong where his parents lived, and his wife began working there in June 2014 after 11 years at Luther Pendragon. 

They live together in a five-bedroom detached property believed to be worth around £4million in Wandsworth, South West London, on a quiet tree-lined street with residents-only parking bays that is popular with families.

Many of the cars parked in the street – which is a 20-minute drive away from Central London – are top-of-the range BMW 4x4s and Volvos. Neighbours of Mrs Coladangelo remained tight lipped and refused to comment.

But one visiting workman who left a neighbouring home was unimpressed by Mr Hancock. He said: ‘The guy had been caught bang to rights on film. He will have to do some smart talking to get out of that one with the wife.’

The Spectator‘s editor, Fraser Nelson, called readers’ attention to a Sunday Times report saying that Hancock took his girlfriend to a G7 summit:

The Sunday Times has something more significant: that Hancock took Mrs Coladangelo to the G7 health ministers’ summit, raising questions about whether they stayed together (the event took place a month after their being filmed canoodling in his office). The brilliantly-informed Tim Shipman has a devastating quote from a Cabinet source.

She went with him to the G7 health ministers summit. Did he disclose this to the PM? If it was shown he was shagging on the taxpayer he had to go. He’s been puritan-in-chief in the government and now it turns out he’s a massive, lying hypocrite.

… In this week’s magazine, Kate Andrews has dossier of how ministers have been living la vida loca, travelling globally at a time when they made it illegal for others to do so. All within the loophole-addled rules, yes, but generally conducting themselves in a way that others have been unable to do.

The girlfriend’s brother

More news emerged on June 26, this time concerning Hancock’s girlfriend’s brother.

Sky News reported:

A relative of the Whitehall director alleged to have had an extramarital affair with Matt Hancock, the health secretary, is an executive at a private healthcare company which has won a string of NHS contracts.

Sky News can reveal that Roberto Coladangelo – who is Gina Coladangelo’s brother – works at Partnering Health Limited (PHL Group), a specialist in the provision of urgent and primary care services to NHS patients

People who know Mr Coladangelo said that he and Mr Hancock’s aide were siblings, and social media profiles and electoral roll data appear to confirm a relationship between them.

None of those contacted by Sky News on Friday afternoon would confirm or deny the relationship between the Coladangelos.

Weekend papers

The weekend papers were magic for those of us rejoicing over Hancock’s resignation:

Also see The Observer and The Sunday Telegraph.

Of the resignation news, the redoubtable Peter Hitchens tweeted that it was sad that the government didn’t believe in their guidelines but the public did — ‘our tragedy’:

He added that, given all the damage Hancock caused Britain, it was ironic an illicit grope brought him down:

Maybe that’s why Hancock wants to return to private life after the next general election. Will the formal coronavirus inquiry advance that far in two years’ time? If not, he could be safe in the knowledge he won’t be asked to testify.

No. 10: photos ‘in the public interest’

On July 16, The Telegraph had a follow-up on The Sun‘s photos: ‘Leaked Matt Hancock CCTV footage was “in public interest”, says Boris Johnson’s office’:

The leaked CCTV footage which exposed Matt Hancock’s affair was in the public interest, the Prime Minister’s spokesman has said, as an investigation into an alleged data breach continues.

Two people suspected of recording the film without consent had their homes raided on Thursday by officials from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Police and Crime Commissioners have also called for the police to launch an urgent investigation amid concern over the security of government buildings.

But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Boris Johnson believed in the importance of a free press being able to investigate matters that were in the public interest

Excellent!!!

There ends the resignation saga.

A final instalment on Hancock’s time as a backbencher will come next week.

Thus far, most of my series on Matt Hancock has focused on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Those who missed them can catch up on parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Even though the vaccine was about to be distributed throughout the UK, people in England were frustrated by the restrictions which the Government had imposed indefinitely. Effectively, we had had a Christmas lockdown, with more restrictions that came in on Boxing Day. As I covered in my last post, even at the end of the year, Hancock could not say when they would be lifted.

This post covers the first half of 2021 with excerpts from Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries as serialised in the Mail along with news I had collected during that time. Pandemic Diaries entries come from this excerpt, unless otherwise specified.

Vaccines and side-effects

Former Times journalist Isabel Oakeshott co-authored Pandemic Diaries. On December 7, The Spectator posted her impressions of Hancock and the pandemic.

This is what she had to say about the vaccine policy (emphases mine):

The crusade to vaccinate the entire population against a disease with a low mortality rate among all but the very elderly is one of the most extraordinary cases of mission creep in political history. On 3 January 2021, Hancock told The Spectator that once priority groups had been jabbed (13 million doses) then ‘Cry freedom’. Instead, the government proceeded to attempt to vaccinate every-one, including children, and there was no freedom for another seven months. Sadly, we now know some young people died as a result of adverse reactions to a jab they never needed. Meanwhile experts have linked this month’s deadly outbreak of Strep A in young children to the weakening of their immune systems because they were prevented from socialising. Who knows what other long-term health consequences of the policy may emerge?

Why did the goalposts move so far off the pitch? I believe multiple driving forces combined almost accidentally to create a policy which was never subjected to rigorous cost-benefit analysis. Operating in classic Whitehall-style silos, key individuals and agencies – the JCVI, Sage, the MHRA – did their particular jobs, advising on narrow and very specific safety and regulatory issues. At no point did they all come together, along with ministers and, crucially, medical and scientific experts with differing views on the merits of whole-population vaccination, for a serious debate about whether such an approach was desirable or wise.

The apparent absence of any such discussion at the top of government is quite remarkable. The Treasury raised the occasional eyebrow at costs, but if a single cabinet minister challenged the policy on any other grounds, I’ve seen no evidence of it.

In Hancock’s defence, he would have been crucified for failing to order enough vaccines for everybody, just in case. He deserves credit for harnessing the full power of the state to accelerate the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab. He simply would not take no or ‘too difficult’ for an answer, forcing bureaucratic regulators and plodding public health bodies to bend to his will. He is adamant that he never cut corners on safety, though the tone of his internal communications suggest that in his hurtling rush to win the global race for a vaccine, he personally would have been willing to take bigger risks. I believe he would have justified any casualties as sacrifices necessary for the greater good. Fortunately (in my view) his enthusiasm was constrained by medical and scientific advisers, and by the Covid vaccine tsar Kate Bingham, who was so alarmed by his haste that at one point she warned him that he might ‘kill people’. She never thought it was necessary to jab everyone and repeatedly sought to prevent Hancock from over-ordering. Once he had far more than was needed for the initial target group of elderly and clinically vulnerable patients, he seems to have felt compelled to use it. Setting ever more ambitious vaccination rollout targets was a useful political device, creating an easily understood schedule for easing lockdown and allowing the government to play for time amid the threat of new variants. The strategy gave the Conservatives a big bounce in the polls, which only encouraged the party leadership to go further.

Now on to side-effects:

Given the unprecedented speed at which the vaccine was developed, the government might have been expected to be extra careful about recording and analysing any reported side-effects. While there was much anxiety about potential adverse reactions during clinical trials, once it passed regulatory hurdles, ministers seemed to stop worrying. In early January 2021, Hancock casually asked Chris Whitty ‘where we are up to on the system for monitoring events after rollout’

Not exactly reassuringly, Whitty replied that the system was ‘reasonable’ but needed to get better. This exchange, which Hancock didn’t consider to be of any significance, is likely to be seized on by those with concerns about vaccine safety.

January 2021

On January 2, Hancock hoped to ease red tape allowing NHS physicians to come out of retirement to be part of the vaccination drive:

On January 3, The Conservative Woman‘s co-editor and qualified barrister Laura Perrins blasted the Government for keeping Britons under ‘humiliating and undignified treatment‘:

Schools reopened in England on Monday, January 4. They closed again by the end of the day.

Monday, January 4:

Millions of children returned to school today, only to be told schools are closing again tomorrow. After sleeping on it, Boris agreed we have no choice but to go for another national lockdown.

On Thursday, January 7, Hancock appeared before the Health and Social Care Select Committee to answer questions about lockdown. He came across as arrogant, in my opinion:

Monday, January 11:

A message from a friend tipping me off that straight-talking cricket legend Sir Geoffrey Boycott is very unhappy about the delay in the second dose. He’s a childhood hero of mine, so I volunteered to call him personally to explain. I rang him and made the case as well as I could, but it was clear he was far from persuaded.

That morning, Guido Fawkes’s cartoonist posted his ghoulish perspective on Hancock: ‘A nightmare before vaccination’. It was hard to disagree:

Tuesday, January 12:

A bunch of GPs are refusing to go into care homes where there are Covid cases. Apparently there are cases in about a third of care homes, meaning many residents aren’t getting vaccinated. Evidently I was naive to think £25 a jab would be enough of an incentive. We may have to use the Army to fill the gap.

Also that day:

Not only is [Sir Geoffrey] Boycott in the Press having a go at me; now [former Speaker of the House of Commons] Betty Boothroyd is kicking off as well. Given that I personally ensured she got her first jab fast, it feels a bit rich. It’s particularly miserable being criticised by people I’ve grown up admiring and went out of my way to help, but welcome to the life of a politician.

On Wednesday, January 13, Hancock still had no answer as to when restrictions would be lifted. Many of us thought he was enjoying his power too much:

Friday, January 15:

An extraordinary row with Pfizer bosses, who are trying to divert some of our vaccine supply to the EU!

When I got to the Cabinet Room, the PM practically had smoke coming out of his ears. He was in full bull-in-a-china-shop mode, pacing round the room growling.

What really riled him was the fact that only last night he was speaking to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, and Bourla made no mention of it! I was wary: when the PM is in this mood, he can really lash out. I knew I’d need to be as diplomatic as possible if I wanted to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.

Monday, January 18:

Pfizer has relented. Following a robust exchange between Bourla and the PM, lo and behold, they’ve located an ’emergency supply’, which is now heading our way.

On Tuesday, January 19, Hancock got coronavirus and had to self-isolate. This was his second bout. The first one was earlier in 2020:

Julia Hartley-Brewer of talkRADIO posed an interesting question about re-infection and T-cells. Hmm:

Thursday, January 21:

[Social Care minister] Helen Whately wants to find a way of allowing indoor visits again. I’m hardline on this: we cannot have Covid taking off in care homes again.

Monday, January 25:

The EU health commissioner has tweeted that ‘in the future’ any company that produces vaccines in the EU will have to provide ‘early notification’ if they want to sell it to a third-party country. In other words, they’ll need permission. Totally desperate stuff! They’re doing it purely because they screwed up procurement.

Tuesday, January 26:

Today we reached a really grim milestone in the pandemic: more than 100,000 deaths in this country. So many people grieving; so much loss.

Wednesday, January 27:

A humiliating climbdown from the EU, who clearly realised their ‘export ban’ wouldn’t end well. It followed frantic diplomacy on our side, plus our lawyers confirming that they wouldn’t be able to block our supply anyway. What a ridiculous waste of time and energy.

Tonight I’m doing a night shift at Basildon Hospital [in Essex]. Front-line staff are still under horrendous pressure, and the best way for me to understand is to see it for myself.

Thursday, January 28:

The night shift has left me completely drained. I don’t know how they do it day in and day out: heroic. I donned full PPE, and got stuck in, helping to turn patients and fetch and carry. In intensive care, I watched a man consent to being intubated because his blood oxygen levels weren’t sustainable.

He spoke to the doctor, who said: ‘We want to put a tube in, because we don’t think you’ll make it unless we do that.’

His chances of waking up were 50:50. He knew that. It was an unbelievably awful moment. He reluctantly agreed, and within a minute he was flat out on the ventilator. The doctor next to me said: ‘I don’t think we’ll see him again.’

When my shift was over, I went down to the rest area. One of the registrars told me he’d just had to phone the wife of the patient to say he’d been intubated.

‘We’re doing this, we all know it’s our duty, we’re coping with a second wave — but we can’t have a third,’ he said. Then he burst into tears.

That day, an article appeared in Spiked about the Government’s censorship of lockdown sceptics. ‘Shouldn’t we “expose” the government rather than its critics?’ says:

It’s true ‘lockdown sceptics’ have made mistakes. But the government’s survival depends on none of us ever understanding that lockdown sceptics are not in charge – it is.

they’re gunning for people like Sunetra Gupta, the professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford University … 

Pre-Covid, I would estimate 97 per cent of the population couldn’t have picked Matt Hancock out of a police line-up if he had just mugged them. So when he stood up in the House of Commons, last January, to state that ‘the Chinese city of Wuhan has been the site of an outbreak of 2019-nCoV’, there was no reason to doubt him when he said ‘the public can be assured that the whole of the UK is always well-prepared for these types of outbreaks’. In February, he explained ‘our belts and braces approach to protecting the public’ and insisted that ‘the clinical advice about the risk to the public has not changed and remains moderate’.

On 23 March, he made a complete volte-farce. (That was not a typo.) The ‘risk to the public’ wasn’t ‘moderate’ at all. ‘It is incredibly important that people stay more than two metres away from others wherever they are or stay at home wherever possible’, he told the Today programme, adding those who weren’t doing so were ‘very selfish’. Four days later, Hancock tested positive for coronavirus. Seven days after that (3 April), he opened the Nightingale hospital (‘a spectacular and almost unbelievable feat’), while ‘blowing his nose’ and not appearing ‘to be at 100 per cent’. Two days after that, he threatened to change the rules again so that people who weren’t ill couldn’t go outside at all: ‘If you don’t want us to have to take the step to ban exercise of all forms outside of your own home, then you’ve got to follow the rules’ …

We’ll skip over Hancock’s botching of track and trace, the dodgy private contracts he’s had a hand in rewarding, how he breaks the rules he makes for us while cracking jokes about it, or his intervention into the debate about whether scotch eggs constitute a ‘substantial meal’.

In the autumn of 2020, pubs could only open if they served a plate of food. Why, I do not know.

The article mentions Hancock’s tears on Good Morning Britain as he watched the first two people get the first doses of the vaccine. Then:

Days later, all this ‘emotion’ had gone down well, so Hancock did more of it – in parliament – announcing that his step-grandfather had died of Covid-19. (‘He was in a home and he had Alzheimer’s – the usual story’, Hancock’s father told the Daily Mail. ‘It was just a few weeks ago.’)

‘Beware of men who cry’, Nora Ephron once wrote. ‘It’s true that men who cry are sensitive to and in touch with feelings, but the only feelings they tend to be sensitive to and in touch with are their own.’ Was Hancock crying because he was devastated that his step-grandfather was not kept alive long enough to receive the vaccine (suffering from Alzheimer’s – so it would not be a leap to fear – bewildered, confused, and very likely denied the comfort of the touch of anyone he loved for most of the year)? Or was it because the political survival of the Conservative government depends on being proved right about lockdown – and that depends on one thing: the vaccine …

Hancock told the Spectator that Covid-19 will never be eradicated. But he sees no reason for his extraordinary powers as health secretary to cease even if – by some miracle – it does. In late November, Hancock told a Commons health and science committee that he wants to end the British culture of ‘soldiering on’. Having built a ‘massive diagnostics capacity’, he said, ‘we must hold on to it. And afterwards we must use it not just for coronavirus, but everything. In fact, I want to have a change in the British way of doing things, where if in doubt, get a test. It doesn’t just refer to coronavirus, but to any illness that you might have.’

The idea that we would continue to test, track and trace healthy people who have cold symptoms is so psychotic it’s a struggle to understand whether the man is even aware of how many people weren’t tested for cancer last year. The only hero in this context is Professor Sunetra Gupta. All she’s done is express her fears that lockdown – long-term – will do more harm than good – which is what she believes. In China, Zhang Zhan was also worried that people were dying and the government didn’t want anyone to know about it, so she tried her best to warn everyone in society that more people were going to die if nothing was done. If China had been honest about the outbreak from the start, maybe, just maybe, 100,000 lives would have been saved from Covid-19 here …

Maybe anyone who shares Gupta’s fears are ‘fringe cranks’, but ‘fringe cranks’ have as much right to say what they think as anyone else. And especially when the government has stripped us of all our rights to do pretty much anything else, while refusing to reveal when – if ever – our rights will be returned. This isn’t China. It’s Britain. And we do things differently here. Or at least we used to – in those halcyon days when none of us had a clue who Matt Hancock was

Friday, January 29:

Scandalous behaviour by certain care home operators, who are unscrupulously using staff with Covid. Inspectors have identified no fewer than 40 places where this is happening.

Wow. I am shocked. It underlines why we need to make jabs mandatory for people working in social care. The PM supports me on this.

February 2021

Monday, February 1:

A YouGov poll suggests 70 per cent of Britons think the Government is handling the vaccine rollout well, while 23 per cent think we’re doing badly. I forwarded it to [NHS England chief executive] Simon Stevens.

‘Who the heck are the 23 per cent, for goodness’ sake!!’ he replied.

I don’t know. Maybe the same 20 per cent of people who believe UFOs have landed on Earth? Or the five million Brits who think the Apollo moon landings were faked?

Thursday, February 4:

Tobias Ellwood [Tory MP] thinks GPs are deliberately discouraging patients from using vaccination centres so they get their jabs in GP surgeries instead. I’m sure he’s right. That way, the GPs make more money.

On Saturday, February 6, The Telegraph reported that Hancock wanted to ‘take control of the NHS’. Most Britons would agree that something needs to be done — just not by him:

 

On Sunday, February 7, The Express‘s Health and Social Affairs editor said a specialist thought that the Government was using virus variants to control the public. Many would have agreed with that assessment:

Monday, February 8:

We’ve now vaccinated almost a quarter of all adults in the UK!

Also that day:

I’ve finally, finally got my way on making vaccines mandatory for people who work in care homes.

Because of that, a lot of employees resigned from their care home posts and have gone into other work, especially hospitality.

A poll that day showed that the public was happy with the Government’s handling of the pandemic. John Rentoul must have looked at the wrong line in the graph. Rishi Sunak, then Chancellor, came out the best for shaking the magic money tree:

On Tuesday, February 9, Hancock proposed 10-year jail sentences for people breaking travel restrictions. This referred to people travelling from ‘red list’ countries, but, nonetheless, pointed to a slippery slope:

The Conservative Woman‘s co-editor and qualified barrister Laura Perrins pointed out a logic gap in sentencing:

Spiked agreed with Perrins’s assessment in ‘Matt Hancock is behaving like a tyrant’:

Health secretary Matt Hancock announced new, staggeringly authoritarian enforcement measures in the House of Commons today.

Passengers returning from one of the 33 designated ‘red list’ countries will have to quarantine in government-approved hotels from next week. Anyone who lies on their passenger-locator form about whether they have visited one of these countries faces imprisonment for up to 10 years. As the Telegraph’s assistant head of travel, Oliver Smith, has pointed out, this is longer than some sentences for rape (the average sentence is estimated to be eight years).

In addition, passengers who fail to quarantine in hotels when required to do so will face staggering fines of up to £10,000.

This is horrifying. Of course, we need to take steps to manage the arrival of travellers from countries with high levels of infection, particularly since different variants of Covid have emerged. But to threaten people with a decade behind bars or a life-ruining fine for breaching travel rules is a grotesque abuse of state power.

During the pandemic, we have faced unprecedented attacks on our civil liberties. We have been ordered to stay at home and have been banned from socialising under the threat of fines. But this latest move is the most draconian yet …

we have now reached the stage where a 10-year sentence is considered an appropriate punishment for lying on a travel form.

Matt Hancock is behaving like a tyrant.

Meanwhile, Hancock’s fellow Conservative MPs wanted answers as to when lockdown would end. The Mail reported:

Furious Tories savaged Matt Hancock over a ‘forever lockdown‘ today after the Health Secretary warned border restrictions may need to stay until autumn — despite figures showing the UK’s epidemic is firmly in retreat.

Lockdown-sceptic backbenchers took aim at Mr Hancock when he unveiled the latest brutal squeeze aimed at preventing mutant coronavirus strains getting into the country …

… hopes the world-beating vaccine roll-out will mean lockdown curbs can be significantly eased any time soon were shot down today by Mr Hancock, who unveiled the latest suite of border curbs and warned they could last until the Autumn when booster vaccines will be available.  

As of Monday travellers from high-risk ‘red list’ countries will be forced to spend 10 days in ‘quarantine hotels’, and all arrivals must test negative three times through gold-standard PCR coronavirus tests before being allowed to freely move around the UK. Anyone who lies about whether they have been to places on the banned list recently will face up to 10 years in prison. 

The fallout continued the next day. See below.

Wednesday, February 10:

Meg Hillier [Labour MP], who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, has started an infuriating campaign accusing ‘Tory ministers’ of running a ‘chumocracy’ over PPE contracts. How pitifully low. I’m incandescent.

What Meg fails to acknowledge is that when the pandemic kicked off, of course we had to use the emergency procedure for buying, which allows officials to move fast and not tender everything for months.

And when people got in contact [about] PPE, of course we forwarded on the proposals for civil servants to look at.

Even the Labour Party were getting involved — it was a national crisis and these leads have proved invaluable.

[Shadow Chancellor] Rachel Reeves wrote to Michael Gove at the time, complaining that a series of offers weren’t being taken up. Officials looked into her proposals, too.

I’m even more offended because I used to respect Meg. It’s so offensive for a supposedly grown-up politician to bend the truth in this way.

Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner was angry at the Conservatives. What else is new?

This story has not gone away. There was a debate about it in the Commons this month.

Fallout continued from February 9 over Hancock’s never-ending lockdown.

His fellow Conservative, Sir Charles Walker MP, gave an interview saying that Hancock was ‘robbing people of hope’. He was also appalled by the prospect of a 10-year prison term for travelling from a red list country:

With regard to lockdowns, recall that at the end of 2020, Hancock said that only the vulnerable needed vaccinating, then we could all, in his words, ‘Cry freedom’. In the space of a few weeks, he had a change of tune:

Thursday, February 11:

So here we are, in the depths of the bleakest lockdown, with the virus still picking off hundreds of victims every week, and Test and Trace officials have been having secret talks about scaling back. Unbelievable!

I told them there was no way they should stand down any lab capacity, but I’m told they’re getting a very different signal from the Treasury.

Friday, February 12:

The Left never ceases to amaze. The bleeding hearts who run North West London CCG (one of many health quangos nobody will miss when they’re abolished) have taken it upon themselves to prioritise vaccinating asylum seekers. They have fast-tracked no fewer than 317 such individuals — ‘predominantly males in their 20s and 30s’.

So, while older British citizens quietly wait their turn, we are fast-tracking people who aren’t in high-risk categories and may not even have any right to be here?

Meanwhile, some of our vaccine supply has met an untimely end. I’d just reached the end of a tricky meeting when a sheepish-looking official knocked on my office door. He’d been dispatched to inform me that half a million doses of the active ingredient that makes up the vaccine have gone down the drain.

Some poor lab technician literally dropped a bag of the vaccine on the floor. Half a million doses in one dropped bag! I decided not to calculate how much Butter Fingers has cost us. Mistakes happen.

On February 22, CapX asked, ‘Why isn’t Matt Hancock in jail?’

It was about Labour’s accusations about procurement contracts for the pandemic. The article comes out in Hancock’s favour:

On Thursday, Mr Justice Chamberlain sitting in the High Court ruled that Matt Hancock had acted unlawfully by failing to to publish certain procurement contracts

It is worth noting that there was no suggestion in Mr Justice Chamberlain’s judgment that Matt Hancock had any personal involvement in the delayed publication. The judgment was made against the Health Secretary, but in his capacity as a Government Minister and legal figurehead for his Department, rather than as a private citizen. In fact, the failure to publish was actually on the part of civil servants in the Department who, in the face of the pandemic, saw a more than tenfold increase in procurement by value and struggled to keep up.

Indeed, on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Mr Hancock did not apologise for the unlawful delays, saying it was “the right thing to do” to prioritise getting the PPE to the frontline rather than ensuring timely transparency returns. I wonder how many of those calling for Mr Hancock’s imprisonment would rather he had published the contracts in the required timeframe even if it meant there was less PPE available for NHS workers.

As a general rule, we should be able to see how the Government spends our money, what it is spent on and to whom it is given. Transparency improves governance. It is right that the Secretary of State is under a legal duty to publish contracts such as those at the heart of this case. However, this case – and the way it has been reported – is likely to have a much more invidious impact than simply improving transparency in public procurement policy.

Opposition politicians and activists have attacked the Government with claims that it has been using procurement during the pandemic as a way to funnel money to its political supporters and donors. It is certainly true that the sums spent by the Government have been large, and have been spent quickly.

What is certainly not true is that Mr Justice Chamberlain in his judgment gave any credence to this line of attack. He accepted evidence from an official at the Department of Health and Social Care that the delay was due to increased volume in contracts and lack of staff. However, that has not stopped figures linking the judgment to the attack line, such as Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth who tweeted that the delay was ‘Cronyism’. In fact, there was no evidence to suggest that was so.

Vanishingly few people will read Mr Justice Chamberlain’s judgment in full, or even in part. Most people will only see the headlines in the press. Coupled with tweets such as those by Mr Ashworth, the public at large is likely to come to the conclusion that a court has found against the Government for cronyism, when that is not the case. And this will likely fuel further resentment that the Cabinet are not serving decades behind bars.

Justice must be done and it must be seen to be done. Justice has been done in this case – the Secretary of State has been found to have acted unlawfully – but too many lack the ability and willingness to see.

Sunday, February 28:

A potentially dangerous new variant — which we think originated in Brazil — has been identified in the UK, but we can’t find Patient Zero. Whoever it is failed to provide the correct contact details when they took their Covid test, so we don’t know who or where they are. Cue a frantic search.

March 2021

Monday, March 1:

When a lab technician first spotted the new variant, we didn’t even know which part of the country the positive test had come from. Since then, thanks to some fancy sequencing and a high-quality data system, we’ve been able to identify the batch of home-test kits involved, and narrowed it down to just 379 possible households. We’re now contacting every single one.

Tuesday, March 2:

The net’s closing. We now know that the PCR test was processed at 00.18hrs on Valentine’s Day and went to the lab via a mailing centre in Croydon [south London].

Thursday, March 4:

Test and Trace have found Patient Zero! He was on the shortlist of 379 households and eventually returned calls from officials at 4 pm yesterday.

Apparently, he tried to register his test but got the details wrong. We now know his name and age (38) and that he has been very ill. He claims not to have left his house for 18 days.

This is extremely good news: assuming he’s telling the truth, he has not been out and about super-spreading. What amazing detective work.

Friday, March 5:

Covid deaths have nearly halved within a week. The vaccine is clearly saving lives.

On Saturday, March 6, The Conservative Woman‘s Laura Perrins, a qualified barrister, pointed out that mandatory vaccinations — she was probably thinking of health workers — is ‘criminal battery’:

Wednesday, March 10:

Can you imagine if we hadn’t bothered to set up a contact tracing system? And if we’d decided it was all too difficult and expensive to do mass testing? Would we ever have been forgiven if we’d failed to identify clusters of cases or new variants?

No — and rightly so. Yet a cross-party committee of MPs has come to the conclusion that Test and Trace was basically a gigantic waste of time and money. I felt the red mist descend.

Yesterday, we did 1.5 million tests — in a single day! No other European country has built such a capability.

Thursday, March 11 (see photo):

The Test and Trace row is rumbling on, as is a ridiculous story about me supposedly helping a guy who used to be the landlord of my local pub in Suffolk land a multi-million-pound Covid contract. As I’ve said ad nauseam, I’ve had nothing to do with awarding Covid contracts. I find these attacks on my integrity incredibly hurtful.

The story rumbles on in Parliament, including in a debate this month.

Friday, March 12:

Oh well, at least [retired cricketer, see January’s entries] Geoffrey Boycott is happy. He texted me to say he’d got his second dose. He seems genuinely grateful. I resisted the temptation to tell him that good things come to those who wait.

Tuesday, March 16:

To my astonishment, hotel quarantine is working. There’s a weird new variant from the Philippines, but the two cases we’ve identified have gone no further than their Heathrow airport hotel rooms.

Wednesday, March 17:

Today was my son’s birthday. We had breakfast together, but there was no way I could join the birthday tea with family. I hope to make it up to him — to all of them — when all this is over.

On Tuesday, March 23, the first anniversary of lockdown, Boris did the coronavirus briefing. Below is a list of all the Cabinet members who had headed the briefings in the previous 12 months. I saw them all:

On Wednesday, March 24, Hancock announced the creation of the sinister sounding UK Health Security Agency. SAGE member Dr Jenny Harries is at its helm:

Tuesday, March 30:

How did Covid start? A year on, we still don’t really know, and there’s still an awful lot of pussyfooting around not wanting to upset the Chinese.

No surprise to learn that the Foreign Office has ‘strong views on diplomacy’ — in other words, they won’t rock the boat with Beijing and just want it all to go away.

Sometime in March, because magazine editions are always a month ahead, the publisher of Tatler, Kate Slesinger, enclosed a note with the April edition, which had Boris’s then-partner/now-wife Carrie Symonds on the cover. It began:

As I write this letter, the Prime Minister has just announced an extension to the nationwide lockdown, to be reviewed at around the time this Tatler April issue goes on sale — an opportune moment for us to be taking an in-depth look into the world of Carrie Symonds, possibly the most powerful woman in Britain right now.

April

On April 5, a furious Laura Perrins from The Conservative Woman tweeted that Hancock’s policies were ‘absolute fascism’, especially as we had passed the one year anniversary of lockdown and restrictions on March 23:

Note that lateral flow tests, as Hancock tweeted above, were free on the NHS. The programme continued for a year.

Tuesday, April 13:

The civil service seems determined to kill off the Covid dogs idea, which is so much more versatile than normal testing and really worthwhile. The animals are amazing – they get it right over 90 per cent of the time – but officials are being very tricky.

We should have started training dogs months ago and then sending them to railway stations and other busy places, where they could identify people who probably have Covid so they can then get a conventional test.

Unfortunately, even though I’ve signed off on it, the system just doesn’t buy it.

So far we’ve done a successful Phase 1 trial, but Phase 2, which costs £2.5 million, has hit the buffers. The civil service have come up with no fewer than 11 reasons to junk the idea.

That’s one idea I actually like. It sounds great.

On Friday, April 16, someone posted a video of Hancock breezing into No. 10. He had his mask on outside for the cameras, then whisked it off once he entered. Hmm. The person posting it wrote, ‘The hypocrisy and lies need to stop!

That day, the BBC posted that Hancock had financial interests in a company awarded an NHS contract — in 2019:

Health Secretary Matt Hancock owns shares in a company which was approved as a potential supplier for NHS trusts in England, it has emerged.

In March, he declared he had acquired more than 15% of Topwood Ltd, which was granted the approved status in 2019.

The firm, which specialises in the secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents, also won £300,000 of business from NHS Wales this year.

A government spokesman said there had been no conflict of interest.

He also said the health secretary had acted “entirely properly”.

But Labour said there was “cronyism at the heart of this government” and the party’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has asked the head of the civil service to investigate whether Mr Hancock breached the ministerial code.

In March this year, Mr Hancock declared in the MPs’ register of interests that he had acquired more than 15% of the shares in Topwood, under a “delegated management arrangement”.

Public contract records show that the company was awarded a place in the Shared Business Services framework as a potential supplier for NHS local trusts in 2019, the year after Mr Hancock became health secretary.

The MPs’ register did not mention that his sister Emily Gilruth – involved in the firm since its foundation in 2002 – owns a larger portion of the shares and is a director, or that Topwood has links to the NHS – as first reported by the Guido Fawkes blog and Health Service Journal.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Matt Hancock has to answer the questions… He can’t pretend that the responsibility lies elsewhere.”

But he said he was “not suggesting” the health secretary had broken any rules.

Here’s photographic proof of share ownership:

Saturday, April 17:

Prince Philip’s funeral. The Queen sat alone in a pew, in widow’s weeds and a black face mask. Looking at her in her grief, I felt an intense internal conflict, almost an anguish, between the overwhelming sense of duty I have had to save lives on the one hand and the painful consequences of my own decisions on the other. Out of duty, out of an abundance of caution, and to show leadership, the Queen took the most proper approach. It was humbling, and I felt wretched.

Monday, April 19:

The police rang to warn me that anti-vaxxers are planning a march on my London home. They suggested I liaise with [my wife] Martha so she can tell me if it’s happening.

Great that they spotted it, but asking my wife to keep an eye out of the window while a baying horde descends on the family home is not exactly British policing at its finest. I asked for more support. Then I went home to make sure I was there if it kicked off, but there was no sign of anyone.

A policeman explained that the anti-vaxxers had posted the wrong details on social media so were busy protesting a few streets away. What complete idiots.

Thursday, April 22:

Boris has completely lost his rag over Scotland.

He’s got it into his head that Nicola Sturgeon is going to use vaccine passports to drive a wedge between Scotland and the rest of the UK and is harrumphing around his bunker, firing off WhatsApps like a nervous second lieutenant in a skirmish.

He’s completely right: Sturgeon has tried to use the pandemic to further her separatist agenda at every turn.

Now the Scottish government is working on its own system of vaccine certification, which might or might not link up with what’s being developed for the rest of the UK.

On April 26, the vaccine was rolled out to the general population. Hancock is pictured here at Piccadilly Circus:

I cannot tell you how many phone calls and letters we got in the ensuing weeks. Not being early adopters of anything, we finally succumbed in early July, again a few months later and at the end of the year for the booster.

On April 29, Hancock and Deputy Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam had a matey vaccination session together, with ‘JVT’, as Hancock called him, doing the honours:

May

Saturday, May 1:

Another outright death threat today in my inbox that said simply: ‘I am going to kill you.’ Lovely. The threats from online anti-vaxxers are getting far more frequent and violent.

As a result, I’m now being assessed for the maximum level of government security.

Tuesday, May 4:

Today, I was out campaigning for the local elections in Derbyshire. Gina [Coladangelo, adviser] drove me up. My relationship with Gina is changing.

Having spent so much time talking about how to communicate in an emotionally engaged way, we are getting much closer.

On Wednesday, May 12, the London Evening Standard interviewed Hancock. ‘Matt Hancock: Let’s put our year of hell behind us’ is more interesting now than it was then:

Matt Hancock today struck his most upbeat note yet on easing many of the remaining lockdown restrictions next month, with Britain set to be “back to life as normal” within a year.

The Health Secretary, who has been one of the most powerful voices arguing for lockdown to save thousands of lives, stressed that the Government would lay out the low risks of further Covid-19 infections if, as expected, it presses ahead with the final relaxation stage in June.

“Our aim on the 21st is to lift as many of the measures/restrictions as possible,” he told the Standard’s editor Emily Sheffield in a studio interview aired today for its online London Rising series to spur the city’s recovery from the pandemic. “We’ve been putting in place all these rules that you’d never have imagined — you’re not allowed to go and hug who you want,” while adding he hadn’t seen his own mother since July and he was looking forward to hugging her.

“I am very gregarious,” he added, “and I really want to also get back to the verve of life. For the last year, we have had people literally asking ministers, ‘Who can I hug?’”

Mr Hancock also criticised as “absolutely absurd” protests outside AstraZeneca’s offices in Cambridge, where demonstrators have been calling for the pharmaceutical giant to openly licence its vaccine. He stressed that the Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs were already being offered to many countries “around the world” at cost price.

During the interview, for the business and tech section of London Rising, he admitted being too busy to keep a diary of the year’s extraordinary events.

He also said he hadn’t had time to help with the housework as he was “working full-time” on the pandemic and that he had spent more hours than he cared to remember in his home “red room” office, which went viral.

In a boost for going back to offices, he admitted that he was now back at Whitehall, adding: “I get most of my work done there.”

He also said he had not heard Mr Johnson say he was prepared to see “bodies pile high” rather than order another lockdown, a phrase the Prime Minister has denied using, saying: “No I never heard him talk in those terms.” But he admitted there were very lengthy, serious debates and “my job is to articulate the health imperative”.

He added: “By this time next year, large swathes of people will have had a booster jab. That means we’ll be able to deal with variants, not just the existing strains, and I think we’ll be back to life as normal.”

In the interview, Mr Hancock also:

    • Warned that another pandemic hitting the UK was “inevitable” and “we’ve got to be ready and more ready than last time. Hence, we are making sure we have got vaccines that could be developed in 100 days and the onshore manufacturing” and that health chiefs would be better equipped to defeat it …
    • Told how he hoped that England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, his deputy Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance are “properly thanked” for their work in steering the country through the crisis. Pressed on whether they should be elevated to the Lords, he said: “That’s a matter for Her Majesty the Queen”
    • Backed Boris Johnson, enjoying a “vaccines bounce” which is believed to have contributed to Tory success in the recent elections, to be Tory leader for a decade.

Indeed, the Queen did reward Whitty, Van-Tam and Vallance with knighthoods.

Boris seemed invincible at that point, until Partygate emerged in November that year. Someone was out to get him. They succeeded.

Four days later, on May 16, Wales Online reported ‘Matt Hancock sets date for next lockdown announcement; he also says local lockdowns are not ruled out’. This is interesting, as he seemed to walk back what he told the Evening Standard:

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed the date for the next lockdown lifting announcement by the Government, but has said local lockdowns ‘have not been ruled out’.

Speaking on Sky News this morning Mr Hancock said their strategy was to continue with the lockdown lifting roadmap as planned, but said they would be monitoring the data very closely.

He said there had been just over 1,300 cases of the Indian variant detected in the country so far, with fears it could be 50% more infectious than Kent Covid.

Mr Hancock said: “It is becoming the dominant strain in some parts of the country, for instance in Bolton and in Blackburn.” But he said it has also been detected ‘in much lower numbers’ in other parts of the country

He added: “We need to be cautious, we need to be careful, we need to be vigilant.”

Asked if lockdown lifting could be reversed he said: “I very much hope not.” but on local lockdowns he said: “We haven’t ruled that out.”

Mr Hancock said: “We will do what it takes to keep the public safe as we learn more about this particular variant and the virus overall.”

The Health Secretary said an announcement on the next stage of lockdown lifting would be made on June 14

It was thought at the time that lockdown would be lifted on June 21.

Wednesday, May 26:

Dominic Cummings has told a select committee I should have been fired ‘for at least 15-20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions’.

Apparently I lied about PPE, lied about patients getting the treatment they needed, lied about this and lied about that.

Later, the PM called. ‘Don’t you worry, Matt. No one believes a word he says. I’m sorry I ever hired him. You’re doing a great job — and history will prove you right. Bash on!’

I went to bed thinking, ‘Thank goodness I kept vaccines out of Dom’s destructive hands or that would have been a disaster like everything else he touched.’

I watched that session. Everyone was at fault except for Dominic Cummings. Anyone who presents himself in such a way is probably not all he seems.

Thursday, May 27:

When I got into work, I heard that the Prof [Whitty] had called my private office volunteering to support me in public if need be.

This spectacular vote of confidence meant the most.

Shortly before I headed home, [Defence Secretary] Ben Wallace sent a nice message asking if I was OK. ‘The Cummings evidence can be summed up as the ‘ramblings of a tw*t’,’ he said.

Also:

Of all the many accusations Dom Cummings has hurled at me, the media seem most interested in his claims that I lied about the arrangements surrounding hospital discharges into care homes at the beginning of the pandemic.

Annoyingly, it was only after this evening’s [Downing Street] press conference that I received some very pertinent PHE [Public Health England] data. They analysed all the Covid cases in care homes from January to October last year and found that just 1.2 per cent could be traced back to hospitals.

The vast majority of infections were brought in from the wider community, mainly by staff.

Overall, England did no worse at protecting care home residents than many countries, and better than someincluding Scotland, where [Nicola] Sturgeon’s team has been responsible for decision-making. Regardless, the awfulness of what the virus did to people in care homes around the world will stay with me for the rest of my life.

That day, YouGov published the results of a poll asking if Hancock should resign. Overall, 36% thought he should and 31% thought he should remain in post:

Saturday, May 29:

Boris and Carrie got married at Westminster Cathedral. I’m not entirely sure how much the PM’s mind was on his future with his beloved, though, because this afternoon he was busy texting me about the latest Covid data.

‘Lower cases and deaths today. So definitely ne panique pas,’ I told him.

Then again, perhaps he’s just very good at multi-tasking and can examine infection graphs, pick bits of confetti off his jacket and give his new bride doe-eyed looks all at the same time.

Sunday, May 30:

‘Keep going, we have seen off Cummings’s bungled assassination,’ Boris messaged cheerfully.

It was lunchtime and the PM didn’t appear to be having any kind of honeymoon, or even half a day off.

Nevertheless, that day, the Mail on Sunday reported that the Conservatives were beginning to slip in the polls and had more on Cummings’s testimony to the select committee:

The extraordinary salvo launched by Mr Cummings during a hearing with MPs last week appears to be taking its toll on the government, with a new poll suggesting the Tory lead has been slashed by more than half. 

Keir Starmer tried to turn the screw today, accusing Mr Johnson and his ministers of being busy ‘covering their own backs’ to combat the Indian coronavirus variant.

The Labour leader said ‘mistakes are being repeated’ as the Government considers whether to go ahead with easing restrictions on June 21.

‘Weak, slow decisions on border policy let the Indian variant take hold,’ he said.

‘Lack of self-isolation support and confused local guidance failed to contain it.

‘We all want to unlock on June 21 but the single biggest threat to that is the Government’s incompetence’ …

Mr Cummings, the Prime Minister’s former adviser, told MPs on Wednesday that ‘tens of thousands’ had died unnecessarily because of the Government’s handling of the pandemic and accused Mr Hancock of ‘lying’ about testing for care home residents discharged from hospital – a claim he denies. 

Separately, the Sunday Times highlighted an email dated March 26 from social care leaders warning Mr Hancock that homes were being ‘pressured’ to take patients who had not been tested and had symptoms.

Lisa Lenton, chair of the Care Provider Alliance at the time, told Mr Hancock managers were ‘terrified’ about ‘outbreaks’.

‘The following action MUST be taken: All people discharged from hospital to social care settings (eg care homes, home care, supported living) MUST be tested before discharge,’ she wrote.

However, the government’s guidance on testing was not updated until April 15.

Instructions issued by the Department of Health and the NHS on March 19 2020 said ‘discharge home today should be the default pathway’, according to the Sunday Telegraph – with no mention of testing …  

An insider told the Sun on Sunday on the spat between Mr Johnson and Mr Hancock: ‘Boris returned from convalescence at Chequers when he heard the news. He was incensed. 

‘Matt had told him point blank tests would be carried out. He couldn’t understand why they hadn’t been. For a moment he lost it with Matt, shouting ”What a f***ing mess”.

‘At least three ministers told Boris Matt should be sacked.’

However, Mr Johnson refused to axe Mr Hancock reportedly saying that losing the health secretary during a pandemic would be ‘intolerable’.  

Sir Keir said the situation in care homes had been a ‘betrayal’, adding: ‘We may never know whether Boris Johnson said Covid ”was only killing 80-year olds” when he delayed a second lockdown.

‘What we do know is that the man charged with keeping them safe showed callous disregard for our elderly, as he overlooked the incompetence of his Health Secretary.’

June

Tuesday, June 1:

For the first time since last summer, there were no Covid deaths reported yesterday. We really are coming out of this.

Things might have looked good for Hancock at the beginning of the month, but the mood would sour rapidly.

England’s 2021 reopening on June 21 looked as if it would not happen. Not surprisingly, members of the public were not happy.

On June 6, Essex publican Adam Brooks tweeted Hancock’s words about personal responsibility back at him, calling him a ‘liar’:

Brooks, who owned two pubs at the time, followed up later, threatening that the hospitality industry would issue another legal challenge to coronavirus restrictions:

The next day, June 7, The Sun sounded the death knell for a reopening on June 21:

BRITS’ holiday hopes have been dashed AGAIN as Matt Hancock warns that the new variants are the “biggest challenging” to our domestic freedom.

The Health Secretary told MPs that restoring international travel is an “important goal” – but is one that will be “challenging and hard.”

Health Secretary Mr Hancock said the return to domestic freedom must be “protected at all costs”.

It comes after he confirmed that over-25s in England will be invited to receive their Covid jabs from Tuesday as the Delta variant “made the race between the virus and this vaccination effort tighter”.

Matt Hancock told the Commons this afternoon: “Restoring travel in the medium term is an incredibly important goal.

“It is going to be challenging, it’s going to be hard because of the risk of new variants and new variants popping up in places like Portugal which have an otherwise relatively low case rate.

“But the biggest challenge, and the reason this is so difficult, is that a variant that undermines the vaccine effort obviously would undermine the return to domestic freedom.

“And that has to be protected at all costs.”

The Health Secretary added: “No-one wants our freedoms to be restricted a single day longer than is necessary.

“I know the impact that these restrictions have on the things we love, on our businesses, on our mental health.

“I know that these restrictions have not been easy and with our vaccine programme moving at such pace I’m confident that one day soon freedom will return.”

This comes as desperate Brits have flooded airports as they race against the clock to get back to the UK before Portugal is slapped onto the amber travel list.

The next day, nutritionist Gillian McKeith tweeted her disgust with Hancock:

On Wednesday, June 9, the Health and Social Care Select Committee, which former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt headed, posed questions to Hancock in a coronavirus inquiry session:

On Thursday, June 10, The Guardian reported that Dominic Cummings would tell all about coronavirus as well as Brexit on his new Substack:

Dominic Cummings is planning to publish a paid-for newsletter in which subscribers can learn about his time inside Downing Street.

Boris Johnson’s former top aide has launched a profile on Substack, a platform that allows people to sign up to newsletter mailing lists.

In a post on the site, Cummings said he would be giving out information on the coronavirus pandemic for free, as well as some details of his time at Downing Street.

However, revelations about “more recondite stuff on the media, Westminster, ‘inside No 10’, how did we get Brexit done in 2019, the 2019 election etc” will be available only to those who pay £10 a month for a subscription …

It follows Cummings taking aim at Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock, and the government in general as part of evidence given last month to the health and social care select committee and the science and technology committee.

Cummings, who left Downing Street after a behind-the-scenes power struggle in November last year, accused the health secretary of lying, failing on care homes and “criminal, disgraceful behaviour” on testing.

However, the parliamentary committees said Cummings’s claims would remain unproven because he had failed to provide supporting evidence.

On Friday, June 11, Labour MP Graham Stringer — one of the few Opposition MPs I admire — told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer that ‘things went badly wrong’ on Hancock’s watch and that the Health Secretary should not have ‘blamed scientific advice’:

On Monday, June 14, talkRADIO’s Mike Graham told listeners forced to cancel a holiday to sue Hancock, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, SAGE and ‘every single one of them, personally’, otherwise ‘they will think they’ve won’:

Friday, June 18:

[Lingerie tycoon] Baroness (Michelle) Mone has sent me an extraordinarily aggressive email complaining that a company she’s helping isn’t getting the multi-million-pound contracts it deserves.

She claims the firm, which makes lateral flow test kits, ‘has had a dreadful time’ trying to cut through red tape and demanded my ‘urgent help’ before it all comes out in the media.

‘I am going to blow this all wide open,’ she threatened.

In essence, she’s not at all happy that a U.S. company called Innova has secured so many contracts while others ‘can’t get in the game’. She claims test kits made by the company she’s representing, and by several others, have all passed rigorous quality control checks but only Innova is getting the business.

‘This makes it a monopoly position for Innova, who to date have received £2.85 billion in orders,’ she complained.

By the end of the email, she seemed to have worked herself into a complete frenzy and was throwing around wild accusations. ‘I smell a rat here. It is more than the usual red tape, incompetence and bureaucracy. That’s expected! I believe there is corruption here at the highest levels and a cover-up is taking place . . . Don’t say I didn’t [warn] you when Panorama or Horizon run an exposé documentary on all this.’

She concluded by urging me to intervene ‘to prevent the next bombshell being dropped on the govt’. I read the email again, stunned. Was she threatening me? It certainly looked that way.

Her tests, I am told, have not passed validation — which would explain why the company hasn’t won any contracts. I will simply not reply. I won’t be pushed around by aggressive peers representing commercial clients.

In December 2022, Baroness Mone announced that she would be taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords. Her Wikipedia entry states:

Mone became a Conservative life peer in 2015. From 2020 to 2022, in a series of investigative pieces, The Guardian reported that Mone and her children had secretly received £29 million of profits to an offshore trust from government PPE contracts, which she had lobbied for during the COVID-19 pandemic. The House of Lords Commissioner for Standards and National Crime Agency launched investigations into Mone’s links to these contracts in January 2022. Mone announced in December 2022 that she was taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords “to clear her name” amid the allegations.

Also that day came news that, after Parliament voted on coronavirus restrictions that week — June 21 having been postponed to July 19 — the NHS waiting list was much larger than expected. It was thought to be 5 million but was actually 12 million:

LBC reported:

The Health Secretary told the NHS Confederation conference that up to 12.2 million people are in need of elective procedures delayed due to the pandemic.

This includes 5.1m people already on waiting lists.

Health bosses believe there could be as many as 7.1m additional patients who stayed away from hospitals because of the risk of Covid-19.

Mr Hancock told the NHS conference that there is “another backlog out there” and that he expected the numbers to rise even further.

NHS leaders have warned the backlog could take five years to clear

Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said the current wave of cases would “definitely translate into further hospitalisations”.

On Saturday, June 19, a YouTube video appeared, which has since been deleted. These are my notes on it:

June 19, coronavirus: 24 mins in — Matt Hancock says unvaccinated will not receive health treatment if NHS is overwhelmed, also mentioned are Birmingham deaths, FOIA Pfizer vaccine information forwarded to Special Branch re Warwickshire and four Birmingham hospitals; Mark Sexton, ex police constable – YouTube.

I have no idea what ensued.

On Friday, June 25, Dominic Cummings posted this article on his Substack: ‘More evidence on  how the PM’s & Hancock’s negligence killed people’.

It’s quite lengthy, but begins as follows:

Below is some further evidence including a note I sent on 26 April regarding how we could shift to Plan B with a serious testing system.

It helps people understand what an incredible mess testing was and why care homes were neglected. Hancock had failed terribly. The Cabinet Office did not have the people it needed to solve the problem. Many were screaming at me that Hancock was failing to act on care homes and spinning nonsense to the Cabinet table while thousands were dying in care homes.

There are clearly errors in my note but the fact that *I* had to write it tells you a lot about how the system had collapsed. As you can see it is a draft for a document that needed to exist but didn’t because Hancock had not done his job properly and was absorbed in planning for his press conference at the end of April, not care homes and a serious plan for test-trace.

The Sunday Times‘s Tim Shipman summed up the article with Boris Johnson’s impressions of test and trace:

Returning to Hancock, it was clear that he would have to go, but no one expected his departure would be so dramatic.

To be continued tomorrow.

 

John F MacArthurYesterday’s post was an exegesis on the Epistle reading from Ephesians 1 for All Saints Day.

In it, I cited John MacArthur’s sermons on Ephesians 1 from August 2021.

Two of those sermons have something more in them: a focus on Christ for the Church and MacArthur’s premise that God has passed divine judgement on us, as Paul discussed in Romans 1.

MacArthur is not normally given to pronouncements of divine judgement in our current era. Nor does he take up socio-political causes, which makes ‘Our Great Savior, Part 1’ and ‘Our Great Savior, Part 2’ all the more interesting.

Let’s look at the second half of Romans 1 (UKESV), emphases mine:

God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practise such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practise them.

I’m old enough to remember that the United States — the world as I knew it, and I was only a child at the time — began changing in the mid-1960s. Every year got stranger and stranger. By the end of the decade, protests took place at universities all over the nation and a particularly violent one occurred at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in the summer of 1968.

The role of the Church

Interestingly, one of MacArthur’s favourite books, an anthology on the Reformation, The Reformation of the Church, was published in 1964.

MacArthur points out that, as long ago as then, the Church was failing in its duty:

… in that anthology of those writers from the seventeenth century, Iain Murray wrote a forward, my dear friend Iain Murray. He wrote this in that same year, 1964—and listen to what he said; and I’m quoting, “At a time when the Christian faith is commanding so little influence on the nation, the church herself should be engaged with questions which affect her own life rather than the life of the masses of the people.”

Wow.

Church has continued to become more worldly in a variety of ways, none of which need mentioning because we all know what they are:

When the church begins to focus on the masses of the people and what the people want, it loses its influence. It almost sounds counterintuitive. Church “experts” would tell you that if the church wants to reach the world, we have to find out what the world wants—when just the opposite is true. The Christian faith will always, always lose its influence when it tries to accommodate the world. You get the opposite results than what you hoped for.

The Church is not called to be worldly but to reveal Christ to the world:

In another statement, “It has become customary for us to act as though the gospel could progress on earth independently of the condition of the church.” Great statement. We think that the character of the church plays apparently a minor role in reaching the world with the gospel. In fact there are so many, these days, so busy trying to find out what the world wants that it’s a very popular notion that the worst thing a church can do, that wants to reach the world, is act like a church. That is the devil’s lie. For the church to reach the world it must refuse to be like the world. It must refuse to define itself by what the world wants, what unbelievers want, what the unconverted desire. The church has one obligation, and that is to be what the Lord of the church commands—not focused on the culture but focused on Christ, not focused on passing social issues, the desires of the devil’s children, but solely on the will of the Lord. Only when churches are what Christ wants them to be are they useful in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

There is nothing in the Bible, in particular, the New Testament, that says the Church should conform itself to the world. Conforming to the world is one of the devil’s best tricks. As I write from England now, I can see that the Anglican Church is on its knees. It is not alone:

Clearly, churches have little influence in the world because they are trying to give the world what it wants, rather than obey the Lord who is the head of the church. There is no text in the entire New Testament that commands the church to give lost sinners what they want; on the other hand the church is to obey the Lord Jesus Christ, to confront the culture as the church. There is nothing in the New Testament that calls the church to change social structures, to be engaged in political efforts, economic efforts. The church that effectively reaches the lost is the church that is relentlessly devoted to being what the Lord of the church commands His church to be. If a church has little influence in the world, don’t ask what the world wants, ask what the Lord requires. Be the church. It has always been our passion here to obey and honor and exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. We have no interest in what the children of the devil want a church to be; that is irrelevant. And furthermore, beyond being irrelevant, it invites the devil in.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a blueprint for the Church and Christian behaviour. The first three chapters focus on the holy mystery of Christ’s bride and the last three chapters tell us how we must act as His followers.

The Reformers, being well read in Scripture, devised the ‘formal principle’, which defines a true church:

The formal principle was simply what the Reformers identified as the truth: that the Word of God is the sole authority in the kingdom of God, and therefore in the church. So the church is to be whatever the Word of God tells it to be. That is the formal principle. We have only one divine revelation for the life of the church, and that is Holy Scripture. And when you get into the New Testament epistles like Ephesians and the rest of them, you find that they are designed to make sure that every subsequent generation of Christians and churches understands the will of the Lord for their life and conduct.

And that is true of the epistles in general, but particularly true of Ephesians. Early on in the ministry here, I wanted to dig into Ephesians because it’s so absolutely definitive as to the life of the church. Here is heaven’s instruction book for the church to be the church. There’s not a word in it about what the world wants. Nothing about how to engage politically, socially, culturally. It’s all about how to follow the Lord who is the head of the church, how to be consumed with Christ. That’s why the epistle begins essentially in verse 3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”

Everything is in Christ, everything. It’s all about our relationship to Christ. It’s all about knowing Him, loving Him, adoring Him, declaring Him, and becoming like Him. That’s what the church needs to be. The more it’s like the world, the more it forfeits its influence. The more it tampers with the world, the more divisive it becomes, the more cantankerous it becomes, the more fractured it becomes, the more exposed its weakness becomes. It is a deadly danger for the church, any church anywhere, to be anything other than what the Lord of the church has designed the church to be. And we have all the information in the revelation of the New Testament.

So as we look at the book of Ephesians, we’re going to notice that in the first three chapters the emphasis is on doctrine—that is what we believe. And the last three chapters is the practical section—how we behave. And how we behave is predicated by what we believe.

The memorable line in the film Field of Dreams was ‘Build it and they will come’.

John MacArthur’s Grace Church in southern California has been predicated on Scripture since its founding in the late 1960s. He never used gimmicks or church growth strategies. He didn’t have to. Because he, his other pastors and elders focus on the Bible and on doctrine, the pews are filled for every service. They also have a thriving Spanish-speaking ministry. Thousands of people attend Grace Church every week.

Beyond that, MacArthur also has the Master’s Seminary. Its graduates go on to plant churches around the world.

He says:

Paul’s prayer is that the church would focus on fully understanding what is theirs in Christ. Every faithful pastor should be leading His church into the deep knowledge of Christ. Every faithful pastor must live in the constant expression of a desire to see the church filled with the wisdom and knowledge that comes with a deep revelation of Christ. This is the church being the church, being Christ-centered. Certainly this is my prayer for Grace Church.

God is answering that prayer, most assuredly.

Divine judgement?

Now we come to Romans 1. I placed it at the top, however, so that we could read it whilst contemplating what has happened to the Church and our world over the past six decades.

MacArthur believes that we are living out Romans 1 and that God has left the Western world to its own devices:

If there would ever be a nation of people who held the truth it would be certainly our nation, as well as most of the Western world. We have had the Bible. We’ve had the revelation of God. We all are very much aware that that has been rejected in our nation wholesale; and as a result of that, the wrath of God has been revealed. It is revealed against any society, any culture, any people, who hold the truth in unrighteousness, who turn from God; and that’s exactly what our society has done. And Romans chapter 1 defines the wrath of God. It says this is what it is. God, when He judges a society for rejecting Him, turns them over to a sexual revolution. It’s explicit. We have had that, 30 years ago I suppose, the sexual revolution; that was the first sign of divine judgment. He lets men go into sexual unrighteousness, pornography—really the death of any sense of biblical morality.

The final step is God’s giving people a ‘reprobate mind’:

Reprobate mind is a nonfunctioning mind; and what that means is the final step in divine judgment is a kind of insanity, where nothing makes sense. And out of that, Paul in Romans chapter 1 lists a long list of every imaginable kind of wickedness and sin, that will literally flood and drown a society. In the middle of that list, of course, is deceit and the hatred of God.

So there’s a reason why this country is in the insanity that it is in, and it is the judgment of God. God has allowed this nation that has rejected Him to go down the path of Romans 1 … to the point where there is an insanity that really makes no sense to any thinking person. It’s a reprobate mind, it’s a mind that does not function. And out of that mind that doesn’t function comes every imaginable kind of evil.

It was John Calvin who made the interesting statement that when God judges a people He gives them wicked rulers. When God judges a people He gives them wicked rulers. So this judgment of God, that has sent us down this careening path of transgression, iniquity, and sin, is also aided and abetted by wicked rulers because they tend to be the architects of all of this—if not overtly, certainly covertly.

Mankind cannot ‘fix’ what God has divinely ordained:

So I just want to say that you have to look at this in the light of divine judgment. What is happening in our country—the chaos, the insanity, the nonsense, the things that you can’t figure out, the confusion, the disorder, the disruption—is all part of divine judgment. And if you understand it that way you’re going to realize that you can’t fix it, you can’t fix it. The next election will not fix it. No election will fix it. A new governor in California will not fix it. It cannot be fixed; it is divine judgment, and it is obviously unleashed on us, and we’re in the final stage, the stage of insanity.

The folly of all follies in a situation like this is to think there’s anything you can do in the human realm to stop the divine judgment of God. That’s not possible. This is God judging, and He laid it out in detail. We are under judgment at a severe level, the most severe level revealed in Scripture, short of final, global judgment yet to come in the end of the age, and eternal judgment in hell. What is wrong in this country is not fixable; this is God bringing judgment.

However, MacArthur says that God will protect His faithful people:

The good news is that He protects His people in the judgment, that His cover is over us. We are in the shelter of His protection. We are saved from the wrath to come, and we are protected in the current judgment.

MacArthur says that we must have convictions — hills to die on — as we live through this era:

I was at camp this week with a thousand teenagers over in New Mexico, and the seniors from Grace Church got together and wanted to have a question and answer session. It was wonderful; I love doing it. And perhaps the most telling question came from—these are high school seniors—they said, “What do we need to know, facing university, facing college, going forward? What protections should we have?” And I said, “You need two things, two things, without which you will be a victim of the world. Number one: You need conviction. You need conviction. You have to have some non-negotiables, you have to have some hills you die on. And you have to know why, and you have to be able to substantiate those in the Word of God and in your own conscience. Without convictions you are a cork in the surf; you’ll end up wherever they take you. You need convictions.” And what a blessing to have been, for most of them, brought up in the influences of Grace Community Church where they have those convictions from those who surround them here; and for many of them, their own families. You have to have convictions.

Your convictions are the immovable pillars of your character. They’re the structure. Because what they’re going to want to do in the university is crush those convictions because they’re biblical convictions, and they’re true. And the world is ungodly, and the world is run by Satan, who’s a liar. They’re going to attack you with lies, and they’re going to attack your convictions about God, about man, about sin, about righteousness, about conduct, about morality, about everything. You have to have convictions.

The second thing you have to have is critical thinking, critical thinking. And I think for this particular period of history, this is what is most under attack. And let me tell you how to look at that.

Universities these days—certainly in the humanities side of things, universities these days are concerned about ideologies. You hear a lot about that, an ideology. What do they mean by an ideology? It’s just another word for a philosophy. But ideologies in the current climate are seductive and attractive to people because they are mindless, they are mindless.

Here’s how an ideology works: “What’s wrong in America? White privilege. What’s wrong in America? Systemic racism. What’s wrong in America? Abuse of women.” They want you to buy into the fact that everything that’s wrong in America can be explained by an ideology. They don’t want you to think critically about it.

“What’s wrong in America? Some people have money, and others don’t. What’s wrong in America? Corporations are getting rich, and people are being abused. What’s wrong in America?” They can be reduced to an ideology, a simple, single idea. This is stupidity. And universities are really bent on teaching people to be stupid. This is infantile. You can’t say, “What’s wrong in America? Systemic racism,” no matter what it is; if the bus doesn’t show up on your corner on time, “Well it’s systemic racism.” If you have mold on your bread, “Well it’s systemic racism.” That’s the stupidity of that oversimplification of everything—that is easy for people to suck up and be seduced by it because it’s a one-size-fits-all answer to everything, and you can put your brain in a bag and bury it. You have to think critically. You have to understand.

Then MacArthur describes the pandemic and post-pandemic period. What an amazing analysis:

For example, I’ll give you an illustration. In the United States 99.9 percent of the population survives COVID; that’s a fact. You can’t mesh that up with the behavior they’re requiring. How about this one: “Get vaccinated.” And you’re saying to yourself, “Well let’s see, they lied about Russia. The FBI lies. CIA lies. The National Health Organization lies. The World Health Organization lies. The CDC lies. The director of all of this lies, because he says something different every time he opens his mouth. The politicians lie. They lied about an incident in Chicago. They’re just lies and lies and lies and lies and lies.” And then they say to you, “Be vaccinated; it’s good for you.” I know why people aren’t getting vaccinated—because people don’t believe they’re being told the truth. It’s simple. It’s just the old Aesop’s fable about the boy who cried, “Wolf, wolf, wolf, wolf,” there never was a wolf. And when there was a wolf, nobody showed up.

You can’t keep lying and then expect people to believe you. You have to think critically and thoughtfully and carefully. You have to realize, CDC reports death rate from the normal flu last year was 99 percent lower. Oh, really. What happened to the flu? Where did it go? It went into the COVID statistic.

The chaos of deception and lies forces you, if you want to navigate the world in which you live, to think critically. Are there things wrong with capitalism? Capitalism can be abused, just like socialism is abused. Anything can be abused because sinners are engaged in it. Any kind of relationship, any kind of anything in human relationships is going to have good, bad, and indifferent. But what they want you to do is accept the—buy the package, and shut down alternative discussions. That’s why they cancel culture, because they want you to buy the ideology, they don’t want you to think critically. But we think critically because we think biblically, and we have the mind of Christ. First Corinthians 2:16, “You have the mind of Christ.”

I don’t want to get caught up in philosophy, which is another term for human wisdom. I don’t want to get caught up in empty deception. I don’t want to get caught up in something just passed down from person to person in tradition. And I certainly want to get above the stupid level of the ABCs. You can’t reduce me to some simplistic moron. Human wisdom is infantile compared to divine wisdom.

So look at verse 9, Colossians 2. Look, we don’t pay any attention to that, but we pay attention to Christ, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made” —what? —“complete.” Everything we need is in Christ. First Corinthians 2:16, “We have the mind of Christ.” We have the mind of Christ.

That’s what I told those high school students: convictions, critical thinking. Think like a Christian. Think like Christ. Think biblically. Don’t be kidnapped by lies.

MacArthur says that the Church has a vital role to play during divine judgement:

I just want you to understand that the church has one great responsibility in the midst of this judgment. It’s not to try to fix what’s wrong in society. That same chapter, Romans 1, gives us our mandate. Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel [of Christ], for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew and the Gentile.” Our responsibility is to preach the gospel—not to be ashamed of the gospel but to preach the gospel, which is the only answer. The only hope is Christ, and the only appropriate response to Christ is to embrace Him as Lord and Savior, and to embrace His glorious gospel.

I guess what I’m saying to you is don’t expect it to get better. But it raises the stakes for what we as believers in the world are called to do. And while so many churches, so many churches, ranging from the liberal churches to the even evangelical churches, are caught up in trying to fix what’s wrong in the world—everything is a result of judgment, even the racial hostility, the insanity of teaching people to hate and living on vengeance and revenge. All of these kinds of things are part and parcel of what happens to a culture when God lets them go. They go to an insanity where nothing makes sense. That’s where we are.

For us, we know the truth because we have the mind of Christ in the Word of God. And our responsibility is not somehow to figure out how to fix the world, but how to proclaim the gospel that can deliver people from the world, from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. The church needs to focus on the person of Christ; and sadly it’s all over the place on social issues, which cannot be fixed, first of all, because people are sinful. And what’s wrong in the world, in society, is a reflection of sin. And secondly, because that sin is compounded when God removes normal, divine restraint, and it becomes a judgment. So the judgment is that sinners get what they want, and it gets worse and worse and worse

You have to see those things for what they are. They’re not fixable; they’re a reflection of fallen sinfulness, a reflection of a nation that has abandoned God, and a reflection of divine judgment itself.

Ultimately, the Church must be a haven in times of judgement:

The church needs to become Christ-centered. For the church to reach the world, it has to stop trying to be like the world, because why would you want to identify with a society under judgment? Understand that what’s going wrong in our society is divine judgment. We have to be the church. We have to be the haven; we have to be the eye of the hurricane; we have to be the safe place. We have to be the place where Christ is exalted and the Word of God is proclaimed, truth is known and believed and lived and taught. We have the mind of Christ, and it’s in the pages of Scripture.

I will return to British politics in my next post. See if we are not under divine judgement, too, as our once great United Kingdom is in a state of collapse in so many ways. No matter what our politicians advocate and try, everything gets worse. It’s unfixable for the time being.

This is the final instalment of my series on Boris Johnson’s downfall.

Those who missed them can read parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Also of interest are:

Developing news: how long can Boris last as PM? (July 5-6)

Boris stays as PM for now but stands down as Conservative leader: ‘When the herd moves, it moves’ (July 6-7)

This post discusses two groups of people who are still wild about Boris: British voters and the Ukrainians.

British voters

On June 11, 2022, one week after Boris survived a vote of confidence by his fellow Conservative MPs, The Observer — the Sunday edition of The Guardian — posted the results of a poll they commissioned.

The findings were surprising for a left-wing newspaper (emphases mine):

Boris Johnson makes a better prime minister than Keir Starmer would despite Partygate, the cost of living crisis and the confidence vote in Johnson held by his MPs, according to the latest Observer poll.

Granted, the results were close, but Boris managed to come out on top, with the Conservatives two points behind Labour:

The Opinium figures, which will raise further concerns within Labour over the party leader’s performance, shows that the prime minister has a two-point lead over his opponent. It also reveals that Starmer’s party holds a narrow two-point lead, compared with a three-point lead in the last poll a fortnight ago. Labour are on 36% of the vote, with the Tories up one point on 34%. The Lib Dems are on 13% with the Greens on 6% …

While 28% think Johnson would make the best prime minister, 26% opted for Starmer.

On June 13, the i paper‘s Hugo Gye posted a few pages from the book Moonshot, by Pfizer’s chairman Albert Bourla:

Two excerpts follow. These pertain to late 2020 and early 2021:

From my perspective, the UK was doing an exceptional job under tremendous pressure.

At that time, the UK was the only vaccinating so quickly that demand surpassed supply. As a result, we worked on a plan to meet the UK’s needs

Yet, in the UK, it was only the Conservatives and conservatives remembering Boris’s efforts during that time period:

On June 14, the Mail‘s Alex Brummer wrote a positive article about the British economy, explaining why things weren’t as bad as the media and pundits portray them:

So, yes, we face serious challenges. And yet I simply do not believe there is any justification for the gloom-laden interpretation by large sections of the broadcast media and fierce critics of Boris Johnson’s government.

These Cassandras peddle a diet of relentless financial woe as they carelessly claim that the nation is in recession or heading for one.

But closer inspection shows not only that things are nowhere near as bad as they claim, but that there are serious grounds for hope in certain sectors, too.

Brummer explored the possibilities of what could happen either way:

True, the UK economy lost momentum recently, shrinking by 0.3 pc in April.

But what no one has mentioned is that this was largely down to a statistical quirk, and respected City forecasters are still actually predicting a 3.2 pc expansion of the UK economy this year, followed by 0.9 pc in 2023.

The big danger is that the constant barrage from the doom merchants could begin to influence events and destroy the resilience of consumers and enterprise — resilience which is still delivering for this country.

What is more, with a change of tack in the Government’s approach, I believe the economy could be recharged.

Of course, the country will struggle if it is required to contend with inflation, rising interest rates and a mountainous tax burden all at the same time. If consumers and businesses are doubly squeezed by higher interest rates and higher taxes, household incomes will be devastated

Brummer disagreed with Rishi’s tax hikes:

The truth is that, with the nation close to full employment and the City of London and services — comprising more than 70 pc of national output — performing well, there was absolutely no need to urgently hike taxes, if at all.

Income tax, national insurance receipts, VAT and corporation tax receipts have all been flowing into the exchequer in record volumes. All that future rises will do is stymie spending and the willingness of companies to invest.

And the main reason for that fall in output of 0.3 pc in April? It is because the Government suddenly ended the NHS’s Test and Trace operations — which had grown into a formidable industry, employing tens of thousands of people — as the country emerged from the pandemic.

In fact, April saw activity in consumer services jump by 2.6 pc. In spite of the £100-a-tank of petrol, the £8-a-pint of best IPA and rocketing food prices, a recession — defined as two quarters of negative growth — is unlikely.

Brummer did support Rishi’s help to the neediest families:

Even if Rishi Sunak does not cut taxes, his £15 billion package of targeted support to help poorer households with the rising cost of living means incomes should now rise in the second and third quarter of the year. It is equal to nearly 2 pc of their earnings and will boost the country’s spending power.

There were more reasons not to believe the doom-mongers, who, as I write in early September, are getting shriller and shriller:

What the doom-mongers fail to tell you is that investment bankers Goldman Sachs recently pointed out that consumer services are ‘robust’ and Britain’s economy is 0.9 pc larger now than it was before the nation went into lockdown.

Economic activity in the crucial services sector, meanwhile, is 2.6 pc higher.

But it is not just the consumer activity — along with the £370 bn plus of pandemic savings in the current and savings accounts of households — propping up the economy.

New data just released shows that the drive towards the UK becoming a high-tech, high-value nation continues to make Britain prosper.

So far this year, the country has sucked in £12.4 bn of investment into the tech industry, the highest level of any country other than the United States.

And let no one blame Brexit:

As for the argument that Brexit has done for Britain, it is comprehensively rubbished by the City consultancy firm EY, which argues that, when it comes to financial services, ‘six years since the EU referendum, we can be confident that Brexit has not damaged the UK’s fundamental appeal’.

Since the financial and professional services are the biggest generator of income for HMRC, and the UK’s most successful export to the rest of the world, this should surely be a source of national pride rather than Remoaner carping.

Indeed, wherever you look, the excellence of Britain’s life sciences sector — as evidenced by the rapid development and distribution of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine during the pandemic — continues to shine

Ultimately, taxes do need to be cut:

But more needs to be done. And by that I mean Rishi Sunak must put an end to the tax hikes — or even reverse them

… he froze personal tax allowances until 2025-6, along with the thresholds for capital gains tax.

… this will provide additional revenues to the Government of about £20.5 bn a year.

Sunak also opted to raise corporation tax from 19 pc to a whopping 25 pc next year. And to help pay for the NHS and social care, every employee and employer in the country is now paying a 1.25 pc surcharge on national insurance.

Together, all these measures (before inclusion of the windfall tax on oil production) mean that Boris Johnson’s government is raising more tax from the British people and commerce than any UK government since the 1940s.

Such a position, given the precarious economic circumstances we face, is completely unsustainable. If the Johnson government wants to fight the next election with a healthy economy, taxes have to be cut with a decisive policy shift.

And if that happens, it could just be the magic pill for a Tory revival.

Meanwhile, Boris took a brief staycation in Cornwall while he helped campaign for the Conservative candidate in Neil ‘Tractor Porn’ Parish’s constituency for the by-election, which, unfortunately, the Liberal Democrats won.

The Mail reported on Boris’s schedule:

Boris Johnson has been pictured walking on a Cornish beach with his son Wilfred as he chose a staycation amid weeks of chaos at Britain’s airports for millions desperate for a post-pandemic foreign break.

The Prime Minister has been in the West Country campaigning as he tries to win the Tiverton and Honiton by-election for the Tories on June 23, but is squeezing in a short family holiday.

And after a flying visit to the Devon constituency he headed to Cornwall to launch his food strategy at the wheel of a tractor before relaxing on the award-winning Porthminster beach, St Ives.

Unfortunately, on Wednesday, June 15, Lord Geidt quit as Boris’s ethical adviser, which made all of his opponents question whether he should still be in office. This came a day after Geidt had appeared before a parliamentary select committee. I saw parts of that session. Geidt did not exactly inspire me with confidence.

The Times reported:

Lord Geidt, a former private secretary to the Queen, announced his resignation in a 21-word statement the day after MPs accused him of “whitewashing” Johnson’s conduct and questioned whether there was “really any point” to him.

Geidt, 60, came close to quitting last month after concluding that there were “legitimate” questions about whether the prime minister breached the ministerial code. He said that Johnson’s fine for breaking coronavirus rules threatened to undermine his role and risked leaving the ministerial code open to ridicule.

He also received a “humble and sincere” apology from Johnson in January after the prime minister withheld critical messages from Geidt’s inquiry into the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.

A statement from Geidt published on the government website this evening said simply: “With regret, I feel that it is right that I am resigning from my post as independent adviser on ministers’ interests.”

In a bruising encounter with the public administration and constitutional affairs select committee yesterday, Geidt admitted that he had been “frustrated” by the prime minister’s approach to the scandal.

William Wragg, the Conservative chairman of the committee, told The Times: “Lord Geidt is a person of great integrity, motivated by the highest ideals of public service. For the prime minister to lose one adviser on ministers’ interests may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose two looks like carelessness.”

Then again, William Wragg is not a fan of Boris’s, prompting his supporters to think there was a stitch up, especially as Tony Blair had just been installed as a new member of the Order of the Garter.

Geidt’s letter seems to be focused on Boris’s fixed penalty notice for Partygate, but Boris’s response, published in The Guardian, is about steel tariffs:

https://image.vuukle.com/ec8968d1-827d-4c2c-be0c-d7788eecf909-246cc61d-a889-436e-a38d-8a75e6feb480

GB News’s Patrick Christys explained this before going into Tony Blair’s offences during his time as Prime Minister, including the Iraq War and letting IRA terrorists walk free. It’s a shame the video isn’t clearer, but the audio is compelling. After Christys introduced the subject, a panel debate took place:

Christys ran a poll asking if Boris is more unethical than Blair. Seventy per cent said No:

Blair’s former adviser John McTernan said that, unlike Boris, Blair had been cleared of a fixed penalty notice (for an irregularity in paying London’s congestion charge). But was Blair actually cleared? The BBC article from the time suggests that he wasn’t:

On June 24, after the Conservatives lost Neil Parish’s seat to the Lib Dems and the Wakefield seat to Labour, The Telegraph reported that the co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, Oliver Dowden MP, resigned. He seemed to blame the loss on Boris, although mid-term by-election victories often go to an Opposition party, something Dowden should have known:

Oliver Dowden has resigned as chairman of the Conservative Party after it suffered two by-election defeats, saying in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson that “someone must take responsibility”.

Mr Dowden’s resignation came at 5.35am, shortly after the announcement of the two defeats. He had been scheduled to appear on the morning media round before he decided to step down.

In Tiverton and Honiton the Liberal Democrats overturned a 24,000 Tory majority to win, while Labour reclaimed Wakefield.

The contests, triggered by the resignation of disgraced Tories, offered voters the chance to give their verdict on the Prime Minister just weeks after 41 per cent of his own MPs cast their ballots against him.

Guido Fawkes posted Boris’s generous letter of thanks to Dowden and his video explaining that mid-term by-election results often explain voters’ frustration with the direction of the Government:

As usual, Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell posted another inaccuracy, this time about Labour’s by-election results:

At the time, Boris was away in Kigali, Rwanda, for CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting). While there, he clarified sex and gender. The Times reported:

A woman cannot be born with a penis, Boris Johnson said last night, adding that there were “particular problems” around “issues of gender”, but he said it was important to be “as understanding of everybody else as possible”.

Asked whether a woman could be born with a penis, Johnson replied: “Not without being a man”.

This has been an ongoing controversy for the past year. Neither Rishi Sunak nor Keir Starmer have been willing to answer that question. Boris met that challenge.

By the time Boris resigned on Thursday, July 7, millions of voters thought it was a stitch up.

Dan Wootton expressed our thoughts magnificently in his editorial that evening on GB News:

Excerpts from his transcript follow:

They won, folks.

They got him in the end.

Let’s be honest for a moment, they were never going to stop until they’d secured Boris Johnson’s head.

Since December, the campaign by the political establishment, the Remoaner elite, the civil service blob and – crucially – the country’s biased broadcast media, notably BBC News, ITV News and Sly News, has been fever pitch.

Eventually, the Conservative Party decided it was impossible to govern while also fighting such dark and powerful forces.

These are deeply depressing times for British democracy.

Boris is the third Tory Prime Minister brought down in six years.

The febrile and hostile establishment and the MSM knows the power they have to bring political paralysis to the country.

And why were they so determined to destroy Boris?

Think about it.

He was a transformational Prime Minister.

A Prime Minister who stared them all down to finally deliver Brexit.

A Prime Minister who had vowed to cut the size of the civil service and demanded they return to their damned desks.

A Prime Minister who was going to scrap the hated BBC licence fee and sell the far-left Channel 4 News.

It’s not hard to see why they would stop at nothing to discredit him.

I mean, last night the BBC quoted a source saying Boris Johnson “is now like Putin”.

That’s how deranged and determined his critics have become.

The celebration that broke out across the airwaves today – especially on the Boris Bashing Corporation once known as the BBC – blew up any final suggestion that we have an impartial broadcast media here in Britain

I wanted to share with you part of a conversation I had earlier today with a source close to the Prime Minister.

They told me: “People had no interest in talking about the quite historic leadership achievements be that dragging us through a pandemic, a world leading vaccine programme rollout and a quite uniquely special performance in regards to that European war.”

“Those people who wanted him gone never wanted to acknowledge that at any point. Never ever. It was always just the Westminster personality stuff. That was the only focus.”

“Labour has had not one policy or grown-up policy discussion. It has been an out and out campaign to remove Boris. And you always have to ask yourself why. Why did they want to get rid of Boris so much? Why did sections of the media do that? Ultimately, wounded or not, he is the Conservative’s best chance of winning an election” …

As the Daily Mail said today: The truth is, Mr Johnson stands head and shoulders above almost all his assassins. Compared with the mountains he has scaled, their combined achievements are little more than molehills

To Boris Johnson, it was a project not completed, largely down to external forces.

But thank you for delivering us Brexit; that is an achievement for the ages that will go down in the history books.

It was a sad evening, indeed.

However, in time, there might be an upside. Maybe he could appear on GB News now and again:

Boris won that night’s Greatest Briton accolade:

Wootton’s focus on Brexit was confirmed by The Telegraph‘s Sherelle Jacobs the following day. She fears that Boris’s resignation will give a lift to prominent Remainers:

With the implosion of Boris Johnson, the Brexit war threatens to start anew. Tory Leavers must accept their vulnerability. The Prime Minister who ended the last battle by getting a Brexit deal done has just fallen in ignominious circumstances. Meanwhile, Remainers – who will never give up the fight – scent weakness.

While Andrew Adonis rallies against a “revolution which devours its children”, Michael Heseltine has declared that “if Boris goes, Brexit goes”. It might be tempting to dismiss all this as the hopeful rantings of bitter men. After all, Sir Keir Starmer has been at pains to reassure voters in recent days that Labour will not take Britain back into the European Union.

But even if the leader of the Opposition – a Remainer who voted six times against a Brexit deal – is genuine, he is powerless to stop the rejuvenation of the Remainer campaign. As support for Brexit in the polls has seeped away in recent months, in part because of the chaos that has gripped the Government, ultra-Remainers have been on manoeuvres. With the fall of Johnson, they think their time has almost come.

Over the next two years, they will likely proceed with a calculated mixture of boldness and caution. Already the public is being relentlessly bombarded with misinformation, which erroneously links every ill facing Britain with the decision to leave the EU. As the Tory party is distracted by internal dramas, negative Brexit sentiment will mount. This is already starting to happen, as critics in the business world become blunter in their criticisms – from the aviation industry to the CBI.

Meanwhile, some Tory MPs have been discreetly arguing in favour of a softer Brexit. Indeed, while the removal of the PM was by no means a Remainer plot, some of his internal enemies were motivated by a desire for greater alignment with EU rules – or at least by their opposition to what they consider to be an excessively aggressive attitude towards fixing the Northern Ireland protocol …

In truth, Conservative fealty to the Brexit cause has been disintegrating even under Boris Johnson, as the Blob has sapped the Government’s will

The great fear is that the Tory party now elects a closet Remainer who does not have the conviction to take all this on. That Brexit dies with a whimper, smothered by bureaucratic inertia and then finally strangled after the next election. If Brexiteers want to avoid this fate, they must think like war strategists once again. That means confronting the extent of their current weakness, and taking their opponents seriously.

Boris also shares that same worry and said so in Parliament on July 19, the day of his final Prime Minister’s Questions:

Right after Boris’s resignation, an online petition appeared: ‘Reinstate Boris Johnson as PM’. It currently has over 23,000 signatures making it one of the top signed petitions on Change.org.

On Saturday, July 9, the i paper had an interesting report with several interviews:

The atmosphere sounded surreal:

“It was a bit weird”, a source said of the Cabinet meeting Boris Johnson convened on Thursday just two hours after he said he would step down, effectively putting Britain on pause.

The Prime Minister was flanked by senior ministers, some of whom, less than 24 hours, had earlier led a delegation of men and women in grey suits to No 10 to urge him to quit

Bill committees examining legislation line-by-line had to be cancelled, or they had newly resigned ministers sitting on them as backbenchers, while the whips who lacked the required specialist knowledge of the issues at stake were leading for the Government …

Contenders to take over as PM, when Mr Johnson does go, have been preparing for a contest months as the writing has slowly been scrawled on the wall of No 10.

Tom Tugendhat, Penny Mordaunt, and Jeremy Hunt were the most active hopefuls this week, contacting MPs and arranging meetings …

As the leadership contenders jostled, the Whitehall blame game began over Mr Johnson’s spectacular fall from grace. The Prime Minister entirely overhauled his inner circle in February, after the initial “Partygate” allegations broke, and it is largely this team that will shepherd the Government through the final few months of his premiership …

The arrival of Guto Harri, one of Mr Johnson’s oldest allies, as director of communications is seen by many as a contributor to the Prime Minister’s downfall

The spin chief had a habit of making up policies off the cuff, prompting advisers in other departments to joke about “the Guto special” when confronted with unexpected announcements from No 10. One Whitehall official concluded: “He is good for journalists, I’m not sure he’s good for HMG [Her Majesty’s Government]”

But others pin the ultimate blame firmly at Mr Johnson’s door.

One of Mr Johnson’s closest former advisers told i that it “all went wrong for the PM” when he stopped listening to those from Vote Leave

One of the former ministers who quit said on Thursday simply: “Everything is his fault. I spent months defending, or at least being generous about, his mistakes.

“Not after the last 24 hours. Appalling.”

On July 12, Guido reported that Boris loyalist Jacob Rees-Mogg thought that the Prime Minister’s name should be on the Conservative MPs’ ballot (emphases his):

… he affirmed it was “unjust” to deny the Prime Minister the opportunity to fight for his position amongst Tory members. This comes in the context of his previous arguments for the growing presence of personal mandates in British political leaders. Unfortunately, Guido doesn’t believe this strategy is quite in line with the contest rules…

I think this gave Boris’s supporters false hopes:

People in Conservative constituencies began emailing their MPs:

With no result, the question then turned to whether Boris’s name should be on the ballot for Conservative Party members.

On Saturday, July 16, The Times‘s Gabriel Pogrund and Harry Yorke posted an article: ‘How the Tories turned the heat on Rishi Sunak’. In it, they introduced Lord Cruddas, who would go on to campaign for Boris’s name to be on the members’ ballot:

Both men were Eurosceptics who had supported the Vote Leave campaign when it might have been politically advantageous not to do so. Both were the beneficiaries of Boris Johnson’s patronage. Cruddas had been given a peerage despite official objections. Sunak had been plucked from obscurity the previous year and made one of the youngest chancellors in history.

In 2021:

Sunak was the most popular politician in Britain and second only to Liz Truss in Conservative Home members’ polls, having overseen the furlough and Eat Out to Help Out schemes. In the chamber, Cruddas gave his own vote of confidence, saying Sunak’s budget “had established a clear path for the country to move from these difficult times”, praising his “thoughtful” approach and arguing it would “not just to reinvigorate the economy post Covid but to help propel the post-Brexit opportunities”.

By July 2022, everything had changed:

A week into the most toxic Tory leadership election in memory, the fact such comments were made feels inconceivable. Cruddas, 68, who remains close to Johnson, has shared posts on social media describing Sunak as a “rat”, “a snake”, a “little weasel”, a “backstabber”, “a slimy snake”, a “treacherous snake”, “Fishy Rishi”, “Hissy Rishi”, “Judas”, “the traitor”, “the Remainer’s choice”, a “sly assassin”, a “Tory wet” promoting high taxes and the leader of a “coup” who “must be removed at all costs”. Cruddas also retweeted claims about the financial affairs of Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty.

Tonight the peer said there had indeed been a “coup”, adding: “I planned to donate a total of £500,000 this year but that is on hold and will not be paid unless the membership have a chance to vote on Boris being PM. I have no interest in Rishi who I deem to be not fit for high office due to his plotting and the orchestrated way he and others resigned to remove the PM.” He also accused Sunak, 42, of setting up his leadership “before Christmas” and choreographing his resignation to inflict maximum damage.

The problem for Sunak is that such sentiment — especially the notion that he behaved improperly and cannot be trusted on the economy — is not confined to a fringe on social media. He might be the frontrunner but “Anyone But Rishi” reflects the opinion of Johnson and a coalition within the party. This includes cabinet ministers, staff inside Downing Street and Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ), Johnson’s biggest donors, MPs opposed to higher taxes, and rivals for the leadership.

On July 22, The Telegraph‘s Christopher Hope added support for Boris’s return and, in the meantime, addition to the ballot:

Tim Montgomerie, a former aide to Mr Johnson who has since been critical of him, said he had been told by sources close to the Prime Minister that he was convinced he would be back.

In a well-sourced post on social media, Mr Montgomerie wrote: “Boris is telling aides that he’ll be PM again within a year” …

It comes as a row broke out among senior Conservatives about a campaign among party members to allow them a vote on whether Mr Johnson should continue as Prime Minister.

By Friday night, 7,600 members – all of whom have given their membership numbers – had signed a petition calling for the vote.

Lord Cruddas of Shoreditch, the former party treasurer who organised the petition, said “several MPs” had started to “make noises” about supporting his campaign

Conservative MPs panicked:

The next day, The Times stirred the pot even more with ‘Is Boris Johnson really planning another run at No 10?’

On Wednesday afternoon, moments after Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak were announced as the final two Conservative Party leadership contenders, a group of “red wall” MPs met on the House of Commons terrace to reflect on the result. “Is it too late to withdraw my resignation letter?” mused an MP, who held a junior ministerial role until the coup against Boris Johnson. “Shouldn’t we just bring back Boris?” she said, leaving the question to hang in the air …

… Much like the Roman republic after Caesar’s assassination, Whitehall is now riven by internecine warfare and a government paralysed by indecision …

For a man who just 18 days ago was brutally ousted from the job he has coveted his entire political life, Johnson appears to be living out his final days in Downing Street in a cheerful mood. Freed from the never-ending cycle of Westminster scandals, Johnson is relaxed and has spent the past few days hosting friends, relatives and other allies at Chequers and preparing a number of set-piece events leading up to his departure from No 10 in September …

Johnson, who allies claim remains furious with Sunak for his part in the coup, has sought to distract himself from the race to select his successor through media-friendly stunts …

Several MPs who helped oust Johnson have received a backlash from their constituents, stoking fears that they may face the same electoral retribution inflicted on Conservative MPs who ousted Margaret Thatcher. Backbenchers in red wall seats have been inundated with emails from voters who are furious at their role in ousting the prime minister.

They added that their postbag was filled with messages from newly converted Tory voters who have warned they will not vote for the party again now Johnson is gone. A colleague of Gary Sambrook, MP for Birmingham Northfield, claimed he had received hundreds of emails from constituents since he stood up in the Commons earlier this month and accused Johnson of refusing to accept responsibility for his mistakes …

Johnson leaves, aides say, with the air of someone with unfinished business. Whether this is the end of the Johnsonian project, or a precursor to his own Hollywood-esque sequel, remains to be seen.

On July 25, Christopher Hope wrote that the Boris petition had garnered 10,000 signatures:

Insiders say he is obsessed with delivering for the 14 million voters who voted Conservative in 2019, many for the first time because of him.

There are already stirrings of a revolt among the members. By Saturday night, 10,000 Conservative members had signed a petition organised by Lord Cruddas of Shoreditch, former Party treasurer, and David Campbell-Bannerman, former Tory MEP, demanding a say over his future.

The members want a second ballot to confirm MPs’ decision to force his resignation, to run concurrently with the official leadership ballot between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak.

That evening, Dan Wootton stated his belief that Boris’s name should be on the members’ ballot:

He asked his panel, which included Boris’s father Stanley about it:

You can see relevant portions in these shorter extracts: Stanley supporting his son, Stanley verbally sparring with a journalist for the i paper as well as the opinion of former Boris adviser, Tim Montgomerie.

In the end, nothing happened. There was no Boris ballot.

Early this week, I heard one of the campaigners tell GB News that CCHQ are asking the organisers to do a sanity check on the signatories, confirming their Party membership number and clearing out any duplicates. If the number is still sizeable, CCHQ will discuss a possible changing of the rules for any future contests.

This is good news, in a way, but it will not help the Conservatives in the next general election. Boris’s supporters are still angry.

Ukrainians

The Ukrainians will miss their biggest supporter.

They were saddened by his resignation:

Boris offered them his reassurance:

Volodymyr Zelenskyy even made a special announcement to the Ukrainian people about it:

Guido Fawkes wrote:

After leaving office Guido suspects Boris may end up reflecting more proudly on his work supporting Ukraine than even his Brexit legacy. Since the announcement of his resignation, Ukrainians have come out en masse to voice their sadness about his impending departure … Taking to Telegram late last night, Zelenksyy posted a touching video saying “Today, the main topic in our country has become the British topic – Boris Johnson’s decision to resign as party leader and Prime Minister”

Boris’s hair has become a bit of an icon there (just as Trump’s had in the United States). Guido has the images:

Boris’s popularity among Ukrainians has already been well-reported since the outbreak of war. Streets have been named after him, as have cakes in a Kyiv patisserie. Yesterday Ukraine’s national railways redesigned their logo to include an unmistakable mop of blonde hair, as did major supermarket Сільпо…

Boris once joked that the reason he’d left journalism for politics was because “no one puts up statues to journalists”. It seems that, thanks to his efforts in Ukraine, he did manage achieved his wish for public deification – just not in the country in which he was elected…

On July 8, Ukraine’s youngest MP made a video praising Boris:

Boris Johnson took a clear stand when so many others looked the other way.

In August, someone was inspired to paint a mural of Boris:

On August 24, Boris made his farewell — and surprise — visit to Ukraine on the nation’s Independence Day:

Guido wrote:

Boris has made yet another surprise visit to Ukraine on its independence day — and the sixth month anniversary of its invasion. He used the visit, his last as PM, to announce a £54 million aid package to the country of 2000 state-of-the-art drones and loitering munitions …

Slava Ukraini…

Guido also posted this video:

GB News had more on the story:

Mr Johnson’s visit came as Ukraine marked 31 years since its independence from Moscow’s rule.

And it also came six months on from Russia’s invasion of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s nation …

He said in Kyiv today: “What happens in Ukraine matters to us all.

“That is why I am in Kyiv today. That is why the UK will continue to stand with our Ukrainian friends. I believe Ukraine can and will win this war” …

The Prime Minister used his meeting with Mr Zelenskyy to set out a further package of military aid, including 2,000 drones and loitering munitions.

He also received the Order of Liberty, the highest award that can be bestowed on foreign nationals, for the UK’s support for Ukraine.

Mr Johnson said: “For the past six months, the United Kingdom has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine, supporting this sovereign country to defend itself from this barbaric and illegal invader.

“Today’s package of support will give the brave and resilient Ukrainian armed forces another boost in capability, allowing them to continue to push back Russian forces and fight for their freedom.”

The package includes 850 hand-launched Black Hornet micro-drones – smaller than a mobile phone – which can be used to provide live feeds and still images to troops, particularly important in urban warfare.

The support also includes larger drones and loitering weapons, which can be used to target Russian vehicles and installations.

The UK is also preparing to give mine-hunting vehicles to operate off the coast, with Ukrainian personnel being trained in their use in UK waters in the coming weeks.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko marked the occasion by urging UK citizens to be “patient” as the war-torn country “cannot afford to lose your support”.

He said: “You are playing a very important part in this fight. Ukraine will do what it takes to claim victory.”

But will Britons continue to love Ukraine as much when the winter and higher fuel bills kick in?

Boris told us that we must do it, we must suffer, for Ukraine:

He has a point, but I do wonder how well this will play by the end of the year.

At least Boris got his Churchillian international claim to fame.

What next?

This week, Boris made a farewell tour of the UK, topped off with a dawn police raid of a house:

Guido has the video and explains the greeting:

This morning Boris accompanied the police on a home raid. Given we’re now comfortably into the 21st century, it didn’t take long for one of the occupants to realise the PM was in his home and film the experience, asking Boris ‘wagwan‘. Boris politely asked the filming resident “how you doing?”. The Snapchatter could have at least offered Boris a cuppa…

It’s rumoured that Michael Gove might be off to edit a newspaper:

Guido has the story and the audio of Gove’s plans:

This morning Michael Gove laughed off the suggestion he’s planning an imminent return to Fleet Street, insisting on the Today Programme he’s “definitely planning to stay in Parliament” and won’t be stepping down any time soon. Rumours have been building in SW1 that Gove had his eye on the editorship of, erm, one particular Murdoch-owned broadsheet, should a vacancy become available …

No, no. I think my first responsibility and duty is to my constituents in Surrey Heath. I’m going to stay on as MP, argue for them, and also argue for some of the causes in which I believe. I think it’s vitally important that we continue to make the case for levelling up. I think Boris Johnson is absolutely right to focus on the need to provide additional support for overlooked and undervalued communities…

Gove added he still has “a reservoir” of affection for Boris despite being the only Minister the PM actually sacked in July. Boris is also rumoured to be sticking around until the next election. Could make for awkward small talk on the backbenches.

I predict they will stay on as MPs until the next election, just show up less often in the Commons.

As for Rishi, The Guardian said on Friday, September 2, that he was being compared with Michael Heseltine, one of the MPs who brought down Margaret Thatcher:

One of the most familiar refrains of the Conservative leadership contest was candidates earnestly inviting comparisons to Margaret Thatcher.

But after his resignation as chancellor brought down Boris Johnson’s wobbling house of cards, a Tory insider said Rishi Sunak found himself with “the curse of Heseltine hanging round his neck”.

Despite long having been talked of as a likely future prime minister, Sunak struggled to shed the parallel with the man who helped bring down Thatcher but failed in his own tilt at the top job – before coining the famous political cliche: “He who wields the knife never wears the crown.”

I’ll leave the final word to The Spectator‘s political editor James Forsyth, who muses on what politics will look like after Boris leaves:

His absence will reshape the political landscape because his presence defined it.

We will find out who Boris’s successor is on Monday. The Guardian has a report on what we should expect:

The candidate who receives the most votes will be revealed on Monday by Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, a gathering of Conservative backbench MPs (not named after the average year of birth of its members but the year in which it was founded) …

The formal handover will take place on Tuesday. The Queen is recovering from the outgoing prime minister’s tenure in her Scottish pile Balmoral and will appoint the new PM there, which will be a challenge as it requires the winner to leave Westminster.

Johnson is expected to make a farewell address outside 10 Downing Street at about 9am on Tuesday. It is not known whether he has written two versions of the speech, one based on staying, one based on leaving.

More next week as a new chapter in Conservative politics begins.

End of series

It is apposite to follow my posts about Lee Anderson with a series on his fellow Red Wall MP Marco Longhi.

Among other things, they have in common a dislike of Steve Bray, the noisy anti-Brexit protester who had his amplifying equipment taken by police this week.

Steve Bray

This is where I left off yesterday:

I’ll get to the debate in which Marco Longhi said those words.

First, however, Steve Bray reappeared in the area around Parliament on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, with a new boombox:

Guido Fawkes had the story and a video:

His post says (emphases in the original):

Just when you thought it was all over, Steve Bray’s back for an encore. With his boombox ripped from his hands yesterday by a swarm of Met officers, it looked like it was finally time to say bye, bye Bray-by. Not so much.

Undeterred, and as promised during a BBC interview yesterday afternoon, Bray is back on his island outside Parliament, having found a new boombox to blast his tunes at full volume as MPs walk past. He’s also picked up a gang of new supporters to chant along with him. Presumably they don’t have jobs to go to either. Chopper [The Telegraph‘s Christopher Hope] even claims he’s seen pedestrians hand Bray some cash in solidarity. It’s not like Met officers have far to commute given New Scotland Yard’s just metres away…

On May 11, Marco Longhi mentioned Steve Bray, although not by name, in a parliamentary debate, Preventing Crime and Delivering Justice.

Guido covered the bit about Bray:

Guido wrote:

… Speaking in the Chamber yesterday afternoon alongside Bray’s arch nemesis Lee Anderson, Longhi said:

I will not dignify his existence by tarnishing Hansard with his name, but there is a noisy man outside who dresses up as a clown and harasses and chases Members of Parliament and our staff from his little camp on the crossing island on Parliament Street. He is someone else who serves no public benefit whatsoever… This person needs to have his loudspeaker system confiscated and to be moved on. Personally, I would like to see him locked up in the Tower with a loudspeaker playing “Land of Hope and Glory” on repeat at maximum volume. The Met really should deal with him.

Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle intervened to offer swapping offices with Longhi so that “there will be no problem and we will not need to shut down free speech either”…

Guido concluded by saying that, like Lloyd Russell-Moyle, he has no problem with Bray’s braying as it shows we tolerate free speech.

Personally, I disagree. After six years of his daily noise, the Met should put a stop to it.

Returning to the debate, which took place after the Queen’s Speech in May, Longhi discussed the people from his constituency, Dudley North, and their concerns, among them Brexit and re-establishing law and order (emphases mine):

I was going to confine my speech to the Public Order Bill, but I will follow up on a few comments that the right hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) made. The more I listen to him, the more I think he speaks a good deal of common sense. I would like him to know that I for one, and a number of my colleagues, agree with much if not everything of what he says, and we have a steely resolve to make sure that we are one United Kingdom. That is what we voted for when we voted for Brexit.

My daughters, for some unfathomable reason, sometimes describe me as a grumpy old man. I really do not know why. However, there are a few things that can make me a little bit miserable, and one thing that has really grated on me in recent years is the minority of protesters who have pretty much used guerrilla warfare to disrupt the everyday lives of the vast majority of our constituents—not just mine, but everybody’s.

The good people of Dudley North are ordinary folk, working hard to make a living, a living that is increasingly harder to make in the current climate. I cannot fathom how the privileged and entitled few think it is acceptable to stop our carers and nurses from being able to get to work to care for our sick and elderly, or to blockade a fire appliance from getting to a serious fire burning a local business to the ground—or, more tragically, perhaps preventing people inside the burning building from being saved. Of course, that applies to any blue light service, not just the fire service. That minority of criminals truly disgust me. They have no concept of the real world out there. They have no concept of the misery they bring to those less fortunate than themselves.

I hope that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and those on the Front Benches will join me in making working here more bearable for our staff, myself and my colleagues. I will not dignify his existence by tarnishing Hansard with his name, but there is a noisy man outside who dresses up as a clown and harasses and chases Members of Parliament and our staff from his little camp on the crossing island on Parliament Street. He is someone else who serves no public benefit whatsoever.

Lee Anderson intervened:

I know the character my hon. Friend alludes to, and I have witnessed some ferocious verbal attacks on my hon. Friend from that character, who patrols Whitehall like a public nuisance. May I suggest telling him that, if he is interested in changing things in this country, he should come to Dudley North and stand against my hon. Friend at the next general election?

Longhi replied:

In fact, that invitation has already been made. I am going to print off a set of nomination papers, but I wonder about the 10 people this person might need for the form to be valid.

My staff cannot hear distressed constituents on the phone through the awful racket he causes. All our staff who have offices in 1 Parliament Street suffer considerable stress and anxiety from the disruption he causes to their, and our, work. I doubt that staff in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the buildings opposite, would say anything different—[Interruption.] Is someone wanting to intervene? I do not know. I heard some noises. It is like a Hoover—an irritating thing in the background. I do not know what it is.

This person needs to have his loudspeaker system confiscated and to be moved on. Personally, I would like to see him locked up in the Tower with a loudspeaker playing “Land of Hope and Glory” on repeat at maximum volume. The Met Police really should deal with him. He is causing misery to hundreds of staff, he is intimidating many

Then Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who is quite the leftie, intervened for a bit of to-ing and fro-ing:

Russell-Moyle: No, he’s not!

Longhi: I think someone wants to intervene, Mr Deputy Speaker. This person intimidates many who are passing by, going about our business and representing our constituents—

Russell-Moyle: No, he doesn’t!

Longhi: Would the hon. Gentleman like to intervene?

Russell-Moyle: The hon. Member clearly does not know how Parliament works, but we often make sounds across the Chamber when we disagree with someone, and I disagree with him. I am happy to swap offices: I will take his office and he can have my office. Then there will be no problem and we will not need to shut down free speech either. Win-win!

Longhi: I am actually very comfortable for the hon. Member to come to Dudley North and make those very arguments, because he would be out of office completely. Please do come and make those very arguments. I am not going to allow this kind of behaviour from someone outside, who is a public nuisance, to force us to have to make changes for him.

Our police, whether in Dudley, the Met or elsewhere, need the tools to better manage and tackle the dangerous and highly disruptive tactics used by a small minority of selfish protesters to wreak havoc on people going about their daily lives. Our police already have enough to be doing without the unnecessary burden of a privileged few who seek to rinse taxpayers’ money.

It will come as no surprise that I wholeheartedly support the Public Order Bill. If that disruptive minority want to glue themselves to anything, maybe the Bill should make it easier for them to have their backsides glued to a tiny cell at Her Majesty’s pleasure. They would be most welcome.

Kit Malthouse MP, the minister for Crime and Policing, concluded the debate. Malthouse, incidentally, worked for Boris Johnson in a similar position when the latter was Mayor of London:

… We have had a variety of contributions this afternoon, falling broadly into three categories. First, there were the constructive contributions. My hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (James Sunderland) talked about antisocial behaviour in his constituency, a theme we heard from several hon. Members. The three graces—my hon. Friends the Members for Ashfield (Lee Anderson), for Peterborough (Paul Bristow) and for Dudley North (Marco Longhi)—expressed strong support for the Public Order Bill. The general theme was expressed pithily by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough:

“We want criminals to be scared of the law. We do not want the law-abiding majority to be scared of criminals”—

a sentiment with which the Government heartily agree. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) made his usual vigorous and wide-ranging contribution, illustrating neatly why his part of the world is becoming more of a Conservative stronghold with every month that passes

I wrote about Jonathan Gullis in April.

Malthouse ended with this. I do hope he is correct when he says:

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary set out earlier in this debate, the first job of any Government is to keep their people safe, which is why we are delivering ambitious reforms to do just that by cutting crime, delivering swifter justice and making our streets safer. We are backing the ever-growing numbers of police with the tools and support they need, making sentences tougher for violent and sexual crimes, strengthening victims’ rights and restoring confidence in the criminal justice system. We will ensure that we strike the right balance in our human rights framework so that it meets the needs of the public and commands their confidence, strengthens our traditions of liberty, particularly the right to free speech, adds a healthy dose of common sense and curtails abuses of our justice system. I commend the Government’s programme on crime and justice to the House.

In the beginning

Marco Longhi was born in the Midlands town of Walsall, Staffordshire, on April 22, 1967, to an Englishwoman and an Italian airline worker. He grew up in Rome.

He took after both parents in his personal choices.

Following his father’s interest in airlines, he trained as a pilot. Later, following the example from his mother’s family, he entered politics.

In between, he studied at Manchester University and worked in the oil and gas industry. Later on, he became interested in real estate and was the director of the lettings (rental) firm Justmove. He also owns ten houses in Walsall.

His grandfather Wilfred Clarke was mayor of Walsall in 1978. Longhi became a Conservative councillor for the town in 1999 and served two terms as its mayor, in 2017 and 2018.

Dudley North

Longhi ran successfully for election to Parliament in 2019, after the much-admired Labour MP, subsequently Independent, Ian Austin, stood down for Dudley North.

The constituency of Dudley North was created in 1997. Labour’s Ross Cranston served as its MP between 1997 and 2005. Afterwards, Ian Austin succeeded him until 2019. Austin became an Independent in February 2019. He resigned from Labour because he was troubled by its anti-Semitism, which prevailed in some factions of the party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Austin’s adoptive father Fred was a Czech Jew who was adopted by an English family, hence the surname change from Stiller to Austin. Fred Austin was the headmaster of The Dudley School from its foundation in 1975 to his retirement in 1985.

In December 2019, Marco Longhi handily defeated Labour’s appropriately named Melanie Dudley with a majority of 11,533, a swing of 15.8 per cent.

Maiden speech

Longhi gave his maiden speech to the Commons on February 26, 2020, during the debate on the Environment Bill.

Although coronavirus was seeping into the news narrative, getting on with Brexit was still the main topic of discussion among Conservative MPs. The debates were marvellous, imbued with optimism.

Everyone was also happy with the relatively new Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who was a breath of fresh air compared with his predecessor John Bercow who did so much to try and thwart Brexit.

Longhi’s speech tells us about Dudley and his hopes for the historic town:

Let me start by thanking you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to present my maiden speech today, and to thank your staff—and, indeed, all staff on the estate—for keeping us safe and looking after us so well and with such professionalism. I should like you to convey my more profound thanks, if that is possible, to Mr Speaker for the way in which he has signalled that he will carry out his office as Speaker of the House, in complete contrast to his predecessor. The conventions and integrity that he is restoring in such an unassuming way are having a much greater impact in restoring faith in our democracy than any commentators may be giving him credit for, which is why I want to do so today.

It is the convention to comment on one’s predecessor in a maiden speech. I shall do so, but not for that reason: I will because I want to. I am certain than many in this place will want to recognise Ian Austin for his integrity, and for the brave way in which he decided to stand up against antisemitism. There is not a person in my constituency to whom I have spoken who does not speak well of Ian, even when they disagreed with his politics. So I want to thank him for his efforts as a local MP, and for the example that he has set for many of us, on both sides of the House, in standing up to prejudice and hatred. I suspect that some of my colleagues on this side of the House—myself included—may wish to thank him for other reasons too.

I say with a degree of both pride and humility that I am the first ever Conservative Member of Parliament for Dudley North, the first ever Member called Marco, and the Member holding a larger majority than any of my predecessors in this seat. For that, I thank the people of Dudley, who, like the people in the rest of the country, decided to tell the House—yet again, at the umpteenth time of asking—what they wanted us to do.

The Dudley North constituency is made up of the town of Sedgley, the suburban areas of Upper Gornal, Lower Gornal and Gornal Wood, Woodsetton, and other conurbations around Dudley town itself. It has several attractions of national significance, including the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley Castle and Dudley Zoo.

Dudley has been a market town since the 13th century, and its fortunes over the centuries have ebbed and flowed with the economic cycles of the heavy industry that its coal-rich mines supported. This also means that it has suffered much since the decline of the traditional industries, which is why a focus on skills and future jobs is crucial if the economic prosperity of the area and the wellbeing of Dudley people are to be secured for the coming decades.

Dudley is also credited with being the birthplace of the industrial revolution, with the advent of smelting iron ore using coal instead of charcoal, which is manufactured by burning trees and therefore much rarer and more costly to obtain. Abraham Darby introduced this revolutionary method, which meant that iron and steel could be made in much larger quantities and more efficiently and cheaply. He effectively kick-started the industrial revolution, so Dudley’s heritage and legacy are second to none—notwithstanding what other people in this House might say! However, I will say that competing with Magna Carta and perhaps alienating a doctor might not be my smartest move. Abraham Darby was born in Woodsetton in 1678 and is reported to have lived at Wren’s Nest, which is now a site of special scientific interest—I had to practise that—and, since 1956, one of only two national nature reserves assigned on geology alone because of the variety and abundance of fossils found on the site.

However, although the new industrial revolution brought wealth, it also resulted in the area being named the most unhealthy place in the country in the mid-19th century, because of the dreadful working and living conditions. That led to the installation of clean water supplies and sewerage systems. Dudley had the highest mortality rate in the country. In the 21st century we are faced with the fourth industrial revolution, characterised by a range of new advancements in the digital and biological worlds, but with a different impact on human wellbeing.

Improving health and wellbeing and seeking to tackle mental ill health are some of the areas on which I wish to focus during my time in this House, for the benefit of everyone at home and in their workplaces. If we tackle the issue of poor mental health at its core and in its infancy, we can prevent crisis moments and the devastating consequences that they can have. That it is also why having an environment that we can all enjoy, which supports us in our own wellbeing and that we can leave as a positive legacy to our children and grandchildren, is so important. Mother Nature has been talking to us for some time, and it is time we did more than simply listen. It is time to take action as well, which is why the Bill is so welcome.

Mr Deputy Speaker, if you ever come to Dudley, the capital of the Black Country, you will be warmly welcomed, because that is the nature of Dudley people. You will also feel a sense of expectation—a feeling that change is about to happen, a feeling of optimism—and this is another reason why I am so privileged to represent the town and its people. In the near future, we will be seeing the demolition of the infamous Cavendish House in the town centre to make way for many new homes, the metro extension and I hope—subject to consent—a very light rail system.

Like many high streets around the country, Dudley’s has suffered much. Nobody has a silver bullet to fix that, but increasing footfall by attracting more people feels like part of the solution. If attracting more people into the town centre is part of the solution, and if the focus on skills for future jobs is key, I would like to see our plans for a university campus on the edge of Dudley town centre finally being delivered. I am pleased that the Prime Minister agrees with me on that. These game-changing plans were drawn up before my arrival, and some have been spoken about for many years. Now is the time to turn words into action and to deliver for Dudley. My pledge to all Dudley people is that I will fight every step of the way to make things happen and bring about the change that they want. It is Dudley’s turn now.

On May 12, 2021, he rightly objected to lefties trolling him over Brexit in the Better Jobs and a Fair Deal at Work debate, which followed that year’s Queen’s Speech:

“Your name isn’t English, why don’t you go back to where you came from?” That is a recent Facebook comment from an articulate but clearly limited left-wing activist, so I took some pleasure in replying in Italian “Che in realtà sono nato da un minatore di carbone del black country”—that I was in fact born to a Black Country coalminer.

More condescending left-wingers recently said this:

“You’d think Marco would understand why Brexit is bad. He’s lived in Italy and EVEN his Dad is Italian. Why is he such a strong Brexiteer? He must be stupid.”

Well, brownie points for working out that my dad is Italian. I did explain at length why Brexit is vital, but it became clear to me that there was a limit to their thinking, too—I mean Marco, Italian, therefore remainer, otherwise stupid is a bit of a “micro-aggression”, and is rather limited thinking isn’t it, Mr Deputy Speaker?

Here is my suggestion for the Labour party: set up an internal limited-thinking focus group to eradicate it from among their ranks, because how can they represent people who are clearly not limited? They may want to start in Amber Valley where the Labour leader blamed voters for their election results; it might prove more useful than rearranging the deckchairs on their Front Bench.

So, yes, my name is Marco, and, yes, my father is Italian, but here I am. How did I get here? Two words: opportunità e lavoro—opportunity and graft. My grandfather’s story is one of rags to riches and my parents are examples of blue-collar workers who for years lived hand to mouth. They bent over backwards to give me opportunities, and I put in the work.

Opportunity and work are two pillars of Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech. People out there do not want handouts; they want a hand getting back on their feet. More than anything, they want opportunities to do well. The lifetime skills guarantee is a massive investment in education and apprenticeships, readying people for the jobs coming their way. We may remember the Prime Minister—or “our Boris” as they say back home—visiting Dudley and going to the site of our new Institute of Technology, where he delivered his “jobs, jobs, jobs” vision. The pandemic has shown that fish can be necessary, but fishing rods are what people really need, and that institute will provide the rods.

The Queen’s Speech contained a vast array of steps that will take us out of the clutches of the pandemic, freeing us to be even stronger than when we entered it. The commitment to our NHS and continuing with our investment in the vaccination programme and in private sector life sciences are huge bonuses that this country will benefit from.

The roaring ’20s are upon us. Dio salvi la Regina—God save the Queen.

I hope he is right about the roaring ’20s being upon us.

One year on, and it’s hard to see. However, that is no fault of Marco Longhi’s.

I will have more on this gently witty and highly incisive Red Wall MP next week.

In the autumn of 2021, a weeks-long protest by Insulate Britain, an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion, took place on Greater London’s roads.

A bemused nation looked on as police a) did nothing, b) asked protesters if they needed anything and c) focused on members of the public who tried to remove human obstructions.

This was the scene on September 15:

Guido Fawkes wrote (emphases his):

The idiotic M25 Extinction Rebellion protestors are back this morning, once again bringing cars to a standstill, pumping out their fumes in an environmentally-friendly traffic jam. Pathetically, a solitary policeman is there and has been filmed asking them to kindly move on. In the most surprising news of the week, they didn’t listen to him…

The next day, another sit-in took place on the M25 near the South Mimms services in Hertfordshire, just north of London.

Motorists took the law into their own hands. The police reacted quickly — against them, not the protesters:

And, yes, blocking a road, even part of it, is against the law:

On October 13, motorists continued to do battle with protesters, because the police certainly weren’t. This took place in southeast London at the Dartford Crossing, going into Kent:

Guido wrote:

Insulate Britain has once again clashed with fed-up commuters this morning after blocking a road near the Dartford Crossing. The 40-something eco-activists prompting drivers to rip posters from the protestors and drag the insolent mob out the road. In other scenes, a lorry driver was filmed coming within inches of running a couple of them over.

On October 25, a man named Matthew, who was clearly old enough to know better, glued his head to an unspecified road. He expressed concern for his face:

Guido had more on the story:

The activist explained from his roadside position that he decided to glue his head to the road because the government is not treating the climate crisis as an “emergency”, despite Insulate Britain admitting it was when they announced a pause in their campaigning a fortnight ag. When asked whether he’d “snipped himself” by the Mirror, a grimacing-in-pain Matthew said “…you’ll find out if there’s blood coming out.” Someone clearly wasn’t thinking with their head when they made this decision…

Interestingly, on the Continent, the police have no problem stepping in and restoring order.

On January 24, 2022, Extinction Rebellion Deutschland found that German police weren’t nearly as kind and accommodating as their British counterparts:

Guido had the story:

German police demonstrated a no-nonsense approach to dealing with climate road-blockers this morning – the kind that’s sorely lacking here in the UK. Dozens of protestors from “Aufstand der letzten generation” – which translates to “Last Generation Uprising”, a branch of Extinction Rebellion Deutschland – blocked motorway exits in Berlin and demanded a new anti-food waste law, including the implementation of measures for a sustainable agricultural turnaround by 2030″. Police quickly hauled them all off the road to inevitable accusations of police violence (“Polizeigewalt”). If only Germany were as willing to stand up to Putin with the same verve they do with eco-loons…

And, on Monday, June 27, French police didn’t hesitate in ripping protesters’ hands from tarmac in Paris. Don’t worry. There’s no blood, just pain:

The long-haired chap wailed. The young policeman told him, ‘It’s nothing. Stop making a drama out of it’ (‘Il n’y a rien. Ce n’est pas de cinéma’).

Therefore, it’s probably not a good idea to glue one’s face to the road in France.

Why can’t our police act with authority, the way they do with law-abiding citizens who want to get to work or drive their children to school?

The Extinction Rebellion protests stopped months ago in the UK, but our police need to get tougher with those who actively break the law by sitting in or gluing themselves to roads.

My series on Red Wall MP Lee Anderson from Ashfield continues.

Those who missed the previous three instalments of his profile can read them here, here and here.

Lee Anderson nearly always has something useful to contribute to debates in the House of Commons.

He is also no stranger to controversy, either.

Ian Lavery MP

He has a particular dislike for Labour MP Ian Lavery, who used to head the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), of which Anderson was once a member.

In Part 1, I introduced Anderson’s animosity towards Lavery, which has to do with £165,000 that the Labour MP received years ago from the NUM. Anderson, like other NUM members, believes that Lavery should return the money to the miners.

On Wednesday, June 15, Anderson raised the matter of the money again during the debate about the upcoming nationwide rail strike.

Guido Fawkes has the story and the video:

It was Guido’s most read and shared story of June 16:

Guido wrote (emphases in the original):

Another vintage Commons clash last night between Lee Anderson and Ian Lavery, with Anderson once again accusing Lavery of “stealing money” from the miners, and Lavery getting so upset he actually asked Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans to “protect” him from Anderson. Not a demand Evans took to kindly…

Anderson: Does he think that any Opposition Member who has received a donation from the RMT should put that money in a pot to help people who suffer during next week’s rail strike? Does he also think that other MPs who have stolen money from the mineworkers—165 grand in the case of the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) —should pay it back?

After eventually convincing Anderson to withdraw the remark, Evans turned his attention to Lavery:

Lavery: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. You have been in the Chair three times when the hon. Member for Ashfield (Lee Anderson) has made allegations. He withdraws his ridiculous remark and consistently comes back to say it again. As Deputy Speaker, you are not protecting the likes of myself. I need your protection.

Evans: Order. Do not make allegations against the Chair, ever. You saw how I treated Mr Anderson. You just leave it with me—I don’t need lectures on how to do my job.

All this happening in the mother of all parliaments, rather than the school playground. At least it was entertaining…

Earlier this year, in the February 8 debate, Cost of Living and Food Insecurity, Anderson tried unsuccessfully to intervene in Lavery’s contribution. One wonders if he was going to ask about Lavery’s NUM money:

Lavery: I want to put some human context into this debate. I saw on social media this weekend a comment by a single parent. She said:

“It’s difficult to imagine without experiencing it is how tiring being skint is. How you’re so utterly consumed by financial hardship that it affects every decision you make on a daily basis. It takes up every thought and you can’t escape. No wonder there is a mental health crisis”.

Anderson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Lavery: That comes from a single parent and it sets the tone for this debate. The country is badly fractured and, sadly, broken. Kids cannot eat and pensioners cannot eat, yet sales of luxury yachts have gone through the roof.

Anderson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Lavery: And then we look at the other end of the political spectrum, where we see 14 million people in this country, the sixth richest economy on this planet, living in poverty.

Anderson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Lavery: UK wages are at the lowest they have been and they are a 15-year standstill. Wages are gone and energy bills are going through the roof—I will come on to that. Poverty is a political choice. Hunger is a political choice. I am sick and tired of debates in this place where people from all parts are basically reducing hungry and cold families and individuals to mere balance sheet statistics—count them as human beings. The debate often gets dragged into whether this is absolute poverty or relative poverty.

Anderson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Lavery: That does not matter to people who are suffering greatly in our communities. If they are sitting at the table with nothing to eat in the morning or at teatime at night, they are not aware of whether they are in abject poverty, absolute poverty, relative poverty or overall poverty. They might not even know that they are in poverty, but they know they are hungry. I think we will all probably have experienced being behind the person in the local newsagent who has the key to put £5 on their electricity bill—

Anderson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Then things kicked off:

Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans: Order. I do not believe Mr Lavery is going to give way, so please save your voice for the rest of the speech. [Interruption.]

Order. What did the Member say?

Other MPs: He said, “Coward.”

Deputy Speaker: Please withdraw that word.

Anderson: Mr Deputy Speaker, I am sure that the hon. Member is not a coward.

Deputy Speaker: Thank you.

Lavery: Mr Deputy Speaker, that has taken out a minute and a half of my time, but thank you very much for allowing me to continue. I am far from a coward, by the way …

Lavery finished his speech. Later in the debate, however, he raised a point of order about Anderson (emphases mine):

Lavery: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I would like your advice about the intimidation that I seem to be getting from the Member for Ashfield (Lee Anderson). The last couple of times I have been in the Chamber, there have been some absolutely terrible remarks. I am sure you remember, Mr Deputy Speaker, the last time he had to return and apologise. How can this be stopped? How can we tackle it? If Members do not want to give way, they do not have to, but they should not suffer abuse as a result.

Deputy Speaker: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I was in the Chair the very last time this happened. That is why I intervened to say that the hon. Gentleman was not giving way. I could not hear what the hon. Member for Ashfield said, because I was talking when he said it, and he then withdrew it. However, Mr Speaker made it absolutely clear at the beginning of today’s sitting, after what happened on the streets of London yesterday, that we must all be temperate in the language we use, not only in the Chamber but outside it. I hope that all right hon. and hon. Members will take that on board before they stand up, and even when they make sedentary interventions, and that they are very temperate in the language they use.

Anderson then directed his interventions towards other Labour MPs.

One recommended collective bargaining. Anderson, who was a Labour Party member until 2018, intervened:

The hon. Gentleman mentions collective bargaining, but will he say how successful that was in the 1970s, when the lights were out?

True!

Another Labour MP recommended more nuclear power. Anderson said:

My hon. Friend talks about nuclear power. It is quite interesting, actually, because I wonder if he can recall that, in 1997, the Labour manifesto said, “We can see no economic case for the building of any new nuclear power stations.” Does he think now, moving on 20-odd years, that they regret that?

Crime

Lee Anderson is, to paraphrase Tony Blair, ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’.

On June 8, 2021, during the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill debate, he spoke frankly about the travelling community:

We have a big problem in Ashfield with the travelling community. They come two or three times a year. I did my own poll of about 2,000 constituents, and 95% agreed with me that the Travellers were creating a massive problem—crime was going up, pets were going missing, antisocial behaviour was going through the roof and properties were getting broken into. My constituents do not want them in our area anymore. That was a survey of 2,000 people, and that was the response from 95% of them. That evidence from my area is a bit more compelling than the petition the hon. Gentleman mentioned, which has probably been signed by 100,000 Travellers.

A Labour MP, Bambos Charalambous, said the problems in Ashfield arose because of inadequate housing provision.

Later on, Anderson said:

We have already established that in places where Traveller communities set up, such as Ashfield, crime goes up; we know that there is a direct correlation between Travellers being in the area and crime going up. Does the hon. Gentleman think that crime will come down if we have a permanent site in Ashfield?

Undeterred by the throwaway answers he was receiving, Anderson intervened once again in Charalambous’s speech:

At the beginning, the hon. Gentleman made an interesting point about Romani Gypsies coming here more than 500 years ago, but the Gypsy encampments that we are talking about in places such as Ashfield are not the traditional, old-fashioned Gypsies sat there playing the mandolin, flogging lucky heather and telling fortunes. The Travellers I am talking about are more likely to be seen leaving your garden shed at 3 o’clock in the morning, probably with your lawnmower and half of your tools. That happens every single time they come to Ashfield. Does he agree that there is some confusion on the Opposition side as to who these people actually are?

Charalambous replied that there were many misconceptions about the various traveller communities, which were unhelpful.

Anderson made his final intervention a short time afterwards:

About five years ago, we had Travellers come to a car park in my village and they left a load of rubbish there, which cost the council over £1,000 to clean up. A few weeks later, they came back again, left another load of rubbish that cost another £1,000. I got that fed up with the local council that I hired a JCB and put two concrete blocks there, to stop the Travellers coming back and to keep the beauty spot tidy, and I got a £100 fixed penalty notice from my local Labour authority. Does the hon. Gentleman think that that was the right course of action?

Charalambous said that it was the local council’s responsibility to take action, not individuals.

On May 11, 2022, after this year’s Queen’s Speech, MPs discussed the subject again in the Preventing Crime and Delivering Justice debate. The plan to send migrants to Rwanda was also announced that day.

Anderson delivered a speech on public protests, which have gone out of control over the past few years. At times, the police looked as if they are aiding and abetting the protesters:

Nobody should feel unsafe on the streets or in their home, which is why preventing crime is probably the most important part of this Queen’s Speech. Each time we debate the subject in this place, the Labour party seems to side with the criminals. I am not sure why that is, but it seems to happen every single time. The Queen’s Speech serves as a reminder to everyone that the Conservatives are the only party that is serious about law and order in the UK.

The vast majority of decent, hard-working people in this country will welcome the new public order Bill. Every week we see mindless people who have nothing better to do than wreak havoc on our streets, motorways and petrol stations. Frankly, the hard-working people of this country are fed up to the back teeth of these people disrupting lives and destroying property.

When I have been out and about, I have seen people gluing themselves to property, digging up lawns, throwing paint and performing zombie-like dances in the middle of the road with no regard for the decent, hard-working people of this country. [Interruption.] … These people have no regard for the decent, hard-working people of this country, and their guerrilla tactics are disrupting emergency workers and putting lives at risk. The public have had enough.

We were pretty good at handing out fines during lockdown. We dished out big fines, some justified and some not, and I hope the Government will consider handing out bigger fines to these public nuisances who think it is a good idea to damage petrol stations. I suggest a £10,000 fine, going up to 20 grand. That will teach them. Going back to their mum and dad with a 10 grand fine might be the deterrent they need.

Let us remind ourselves of what the Conservative party has been up to in government. We are recruiting 20,000 new police officers, and there are already more than 13,000 new police officers on our streets, making our streets safer. We have enshrined the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 in law, giving the police extra powers to prevent crime and keep dangerous criminals off our streets. The Act stops the automatic early release of dangerous, violent and sexual offenders, widens the scope of police powers such as stop and search, and places a legal duty on local authorities to work together with fire and rescue services, the police and criminal justice agencies. Labour voted against the Act, and I will tell the House what else Labour voted against: everything in the Act.

In Ashfield we are really benefiting from a Conservative Government. We have just had £550,000 from the safer streets fund, with which we are putting up CCTV in some really dodgy areas of my town. This will make women and young girls feel safe. There will be safe hotspots where they can reach out for help. It is wonderful news for one of the most deprived areas of my constituency. We are using the fund to put up new security gates to secure alleyways, which are antisocial behaviour hotspots. The funding is making residents feel safe in their own home. It is real action. On top of that, we have new police officers in the Operation Reacher teams in Eastwood and Ashfield, which are going out to take the most undesirable people off our streets and lock them up.

The police had always been a little frustrated that the sentencing has not been enough for these criminals, but we have sorted that with the 2022 Act. People will be locked up for longer, and so they should be. It makes people in Ashfield and Eastwood feel safer, it makes me feel safer and it makes my family feel safer. When these criminals are arrested and taken through the court system, it is only right that they should be put away for as long as possible to make us all feel safe.

Labour also has no ideas about the illegal crossings by dinghies and boats coming over the channel. Labour Members seem to be confused, as they do not know the difference between an economic migrant and a genuine asylum seeker, which is a shame. My constituents in Ashfield would put them right. If Labour Members come up to my Wetherspoons in Kirkby, my constituents will tell them the difference—they are pretty good at it.

An SNP MP intervened to say that the Home Office considers most of those coming illegally over the Channel as refugees.

Anderson replied:

I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention and I think that what she describes is the fault of the old, failing asylum system; when people get here, they know how to fill the forms out and they have these lefty lawyers who say, “Put this, this and this.” So they fill the forms out and, hey presto, about 80% get asylum status, and it is wrong. It is a burden on the taxpayer, these people are abusing the system. It is a bit like some benefit cheats—they do it, don’t they? They abuse the system, saying that they are disabled when they are not. [Interruption.] Yes, they do. Come on, let’s be right about it.

Make no mistake: if that lot on the Opposition Benches got in power, perish the thought, this Rwanda plan would be scrapped within five minutes. They want to see open borders. They want to let anybody in. [Interruption.] However, I welcome the sensible comments on food bank use made by the hon. Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn), who is not in his place. I would welcome any Opposition Member coming to visit my local food bank in Ashfield, where I help out on a regular basis. We have a great project in place at the moment.

You can read more about Anderson’s food bank controversy in Part 3.

Free speech at universities

Last week, on July 12, Anderson participated in the debate on the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill. He rightly took strong exception to the metropolitan elite:

Now then, if we control what students in universities can listen to, we are controlling what they can think and the type of person they will become. That may work in places such as North Korea and, possibly, within the Labour party, but it has no place in our society. The Bill will strengthen free speech and academic freedom at universities. It is not the job of the Labour party or anybody else to control who we listen to. The champagne socialists, the Islington elite and the trade unions may agree with the Labour party, but most of the country do not. We fought and won a war to protect our freedoms, and freedom of speech, to my mind, is the most important freedom that we have.

Let us not forget that universities are there to supply our great country with scientists, mathematicians, doctors, lawyers, school teachers, nurses and so on, not to provide us with state-sponsored political activists who have only one opinion or one goal in life. Our young people should be able to flourish at university and be open to all kinds of debate. Let them make their own mistakes, form their own opinions and ask their own questions. We should not dictate who they can and cannot listen to.

By voting against this Bill, Labour is saying that our university students are not capable of making up their own minds. It is a bit like the Brexit debate when it told my residents in Ashfield and Eastwood that they were thick, they were stupid, they were racist and they did not know what they were voting for. Well, that ended well! It ended up with my standing here tonight.

We know that free speech is being shut down in universities in this country. Professor Jo Phoenix was due to give a talk at Essex University about placing transgender women in women’s prisons. Students threatened to barricade the hall. They complained that Ms Phoenix was a transphobe who was likely to engage in hate speech. A flyer with an image of a gun and text reading “Shut the **** up” was circulated. The university told Ms Phoenix and the event was postponed.

What about the human rights lawyer Rosa Freedman, a radical feminist law professor, whose event was cancelled amid allegations of transphobia? She received a passive aggressive email from a University of Reading student who called her views on gender politics “problematic” and warned her to “choose her words carefully”. Selina Todd, an Oxford University professor, had her invitation to a conference celebrating women withdrawn owing to pressure from trans activists who had threatened to disrupt the event.

It is a real shame that we have to legislate to allow free speech, but the biggest shame is that Labour Members will vote against the Bill and subsequently vote against free speech. Perhaps they should all come off Twitter, throw their Guardian newspapers away, leave the Tea Room, and get out there and speak to the millions of voters they lost at the last election. Let us have some free speech on the doorstep and perhaps that lot on the Opposition Benches will finally realise that they have nothing in common with the very people they expect to vote for them. Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker; that is me done.

The next MP to speak was from Labour. That MP disliked being told he was against free speech. He ended by saying:

If this legislation were needed, I would support it, but I do not think that it is needed, because, as has already been said, the legislation is already in place. We know the reason why, because we have had it explained. We just had a great example of it from the hon. Member for Ashfield. This is actually about trying to use the so-called woke agenda in a political manner. It is amplifying the message, so we get a situation where anyone who dares to question what happens or who votes against this Bill tonight is said to be against freedom of speech.

Anderson intervened to say:

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the important points that he is making in the Chamber tonight, but the most important thing I want to thank him for is mentioning the word “Ashfield”. That is the first time ever in this Chamber that a Labour politician has mentioned the word “Ashfield”, so I thank him for that.

Immigration

Lee Anderson likes hard-working immigrants but, along with most other Britons, objects to people coming to the UK illegally then complaining about living in three-star hotels with three square meals a day.

On July 19, 2021, during a Nationality and Borders Bill debate, he related the story of a man he once knew, Janis Bite, who came to the UK from Latvia:

Now then, Janis Bite was 13 years old and living in Latvia at the start of World War Two. Two years later, the Nazis came. Their request was simple: one male member from each family to go and fight the Russians. It was either Janis, his dad or his younger brother, so Janis went to the Russian front and witnessed the horrors of war in temperatures of minus 40.

When the war ended in 1945, Janis was classed as a displaced person—a refugee. Imagine that. He could not go back to Latvia, because he had been sent straight to Siberia and that is where they sent his dad, so Janis was given two more choices: the US or the UK. So he came to the UK to a small village in Derbyshire, where he and other refugees were housed in Nissen huts in army barracks. He did not complain or whinge or moan about the barracks or set fire to the barracks or make TikTok videos. In fact, they were so grateful to the UK that they all volunteered to work in the fields at local farms picking potatoes and other seasonal vegetables for no pay. Janis met a girl in the village, he fell in love and he later married. He worked hard all his life and had three sons, one of them being Alan in Ashfield. Janis loved his football. He became a British citizen and loved this country. He even went on to meet our Queen. Janis is no longer with us, but his story makes me feel incredibly proud of our great country and its willingness to help people from all over the world.

A Conservative MP asked Anderson if Janis Bite would have been affronted by the misguided, generous way the Home Office treats illegal immigrants.

Anderson responded:

I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments. That is absolutely right. I spoke to Janis’s family last week in Ashfield, and they made exactly that point. I will feed that back to them when I get back to Ashfield this weekend.

We have always been a welcoming and tolerant country that has reached out to genuine refugees from all over the world, but just like Janis’s family in Ashfield, most people in the UK do not accept that people travelling here from France in dinghies are genuine asylum seekers[Interruption.] They are not genuine asylum seekers. We know that many of them have been trafficked with a clear instruction on how to claim asylum once they get here. That is because our asylum system is not fit for purpose, and this Bill stops that.

The Labour party and the Opposition want to bring back free movement. They dislike our points-based immigration system, and now they are going to vote against a Bill that protects our borders and helps us deport foreign murderers and rapists. They will always vote against the British people. This new Bill will ensure that people in genuine need, like Janis all those years ago, get the help they need, and the greedy lawyers and the human traffickers will be told, “No more.” We owe it to people such as Janis who are suffering today to ensure that we have a fairer system that offers genuine refugees a safe haven. This Bill does that.

We have nothing to be ashamed of in this country. We are a kind, tolerant and welcoming country. That is proven by the number of people who risk their lives every single day to get here. If Janis’s family can see that the current situation is unacceptable, surely the Opposition should see that too.

I give a massive thanks to the Home Secretary, who has stuck to her guns. She has listened to the British people and delivered. Opposition MPs want to travel into reality. I will offer this opportunity to all of you now sitting there now with those glazed expressions on your face: come down to Ashfield, come speak to some real people in my towns and villages, and the message you will get will be completely different from the message you are feeding into this House. I am here because of you lot and the attitudes you had in 2019. We are getting tough on crime, we are getting tough on immigration and we are getting tough on law and order.

Well said!

I’m still not finished with Lee Anderson’s policy stances. More to come next week.

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